David Schwimmer and Simon Pegg had previously worked together in the bank caper black comedy, Big Nothing in 2006. Now Pegg takes the starring role as moppish Dennish Doyle in the romantic comedy, Run Fatboy Run (2007), which marks Schwimmer’s feature directorial debut. The screenplay, co-written by Pegg and actor Michael Ian Black, feels much more tame and by film’s end, nauseatingly standard, than familiar viewers might associate either of those penning the script.
The approach to the whole film is very simple since it revolves around contrasting characters. When not plugging for Nike, the script, too, is structured on metaphors for running. Hapless Dennis Doyle, for example, doesn’t appear bothered by his habit of dodging overwhelming conflict. The film opens to show a painfully nervous looking groom sitting by himself in a bedroom moments before his wedding. Cold feet would be an inadequate description; for some reason (not really developed), tying the knot with Libby (Thandie Newton), his lovely but annoyingly unimposing pregnant wife symbolizes an intense feat he can’t commit to… ever. Now, years later, he lives in a basement flat working as an out-of-shape security guard for a woman’s lingerie boutique and the stagnation doesn’t really appear to bother him since things seem to be at a comfortable distance.
Enter the wife’s new style American boyfriend, Whit, played by Hank Azaria. He is basically everything that Dennis is not – the slick corporate preppy who epitomizes both ambition and success. Naturally, he becomes competition for Dennis who later confesses his eternal regret for having left Libby at the altar. Fast-forward to several occasions of Whit showing up Dennis and Libby telling her ex-husband that she doubt he follow through on anything important, a challenge is proposed: Dennis will run in (and finish) the Nike River Run marathon that Whit is training for.
Naturally, too, his supporters seem just as unprepared as he does. Black Books genius Dylan Moran applies his scene-stealing cynicism here as Libby’s shabby, cigarette-and-alcohol-laced gambler cousin, Gordon who wagers a hefty sum that Dennis will indeed finish the marathon. American audiences, however, may instantly recognize him as arrogant and nerdy friend, David, Moran played alongside Pegg in the zombie spoof, Shaun of the Dead (2004). His other boost of support is Dennis Doyle’s portly Indian landlord, Mr. Ghoshdashtidar (Harish Patel) who at first seems like a cranky old jerk but in the end turns out to be the jolly fat man typical to romantic comedies like these. But the question remains – can Dennis put aside his breakfasts with a side of breakfast, shake off his fears and really finish what he sets out to accomplish?
Ready? Cue the music…
Although possibly the safest approach to romantic comedy (even the more supposedly vulgar moments), Pegg and Moran provide the bulk of chuckle-worthy hilarity, but not quite enough to likely keep it in the box office runnings as long as one might’ve anticipated when they heard about “the new Simon Pegg movie.” By the end of the movie, when the protagonist weighs the moment that will either make or break his desires (in this case not really getting rid of Whit, but proving himself to Libby), the writers went overboard with dramatic resolutions to the point that the last twenty minutes painfully drag on. Viewers are probably pretty certain, despite predictable, but minor red herrings that Dennis might not actually achieve his goals, that all will end well (and even Whit’s faults are finally exposed). But maybe not quite to the extent of it being so damned Capra-esque… sort of like taking the saccharine words of a greeting card poem and turning them into a climactic visual, only the results aren’t all that distractingly charming.
If ever there was need to demonstrate the most basic construction of romantic comedy formula, this would make a fine little helper.
Filed under: after the 90s, comedy | Tagged: Black Books, David Schwimmer, Dylan Moran, Hank Azaria, Michael Ian Black, Montage, Run Fatboy Run, Shaun of the Dead, Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton | Leave a comment »