Run Fatboy Run is probably the worst, if most descriptive, title of a film out this season. In the simplest terms, it tells you the basic plot of a film where a slightly overweight man, Dennis (Simon Pegg), is going to do some running. What it doesn’t tell you, however, is how much heart, humor and honesty there is in this little film. And how much you’ll enjoy the hundred minutes you spend in the theater watching it.
The running mentioned in the title serves a dual purpose – it is both literal and metaphorical. When the film opens, Dennis is about to marry the very pregnant Libby (Thandie Newton). Unfortunately, it isn’t meant to be, since the thought of a wife and child is just too much for the simple Dennis to take. So he runs away, heading off down the street while friends and family yell at him to return.
Five years later and he is still running. Now he is a security guard chasing shoplifters. His life consists of late bills, lost keys and a general lack of anything resembling self-esteem. The only high point is his son, Jake, whom he sees periodically. Of course, being Dennis, his parenting skills are dubious at best. What kicks him into gear, though, is Libby’s new boyfriend, Whit (Hank Azaria, who has ‘American asshole’ down to a science). Whit is a runner and Dennis, somehow, gets it into his head that the way to win Libby back is to compete in an upcoming marathon alongside the new guy. Of course, this sets up a guy-on-guy conflict which will play out with predictable results, but, like all films in this genre, it’s the journey and not the destination which is important.
Here the journey involves a fair bit of self-examination. Dennis actually begins to realize what’s important in life, and how to go about getting it, while at the same time becomes a responsible parent and a productive member of society. He also becomes a folk hero, but that’s really only a small part of the grand scope presented here.
Unlike a number of romance films recently (both comedies and adventures), Run Fatboy Run puts the blame for the failure of the relationship squarely on the shoulders of the man, forcing him to re-examine his own values, while the woman is able to remain who and what she is. Sure, she must make a mistake or two, romantically speaking (all good drama is conflict after all), but it is not her flaws which are in question, just her judgment of the two suitors in her life. This dose of 21st century feminism is a nice change, especially when you consider the creative force behind the movie. Written by Pegg and Michael Ian Black (noted more for acting and a not-so-subtle sense of humor) and directed by former “Friends” star David Schwimmer (who is making his feature debut), these are not guys known for being terribly sensitive. And yet, they have crafted a piece of entertainment which, while predictable at times, is still deeply felt and rather heartwarming.
But just because we’re focusing on the touchy-feely bits doesn’t mean this isn’t a very funny film with some brilliant laugh-out-loud moments. Dylan Moran, as Dennis’ best friend Gordon, is the quintessential English bloke – drinking, smoking and gambling – and not nearly as reserved as we’ve come to expect from London natives. Before we end, though, a special mention should be made of the carefully constructed soundtrack. Here is a collection of pop tunes and musical interludes which are worthy of a Cameron Crowe film. They fit the tone and theme of the scene and enhance an already enjoyable experience.
Go see Run Fatboy Run. It may not change your life… but then again, you may find yourself itching to take a little jog and look at your life by the end.
(Originally published in FirstShowing.net)