It’s hard to fathom that David Schwimmer directed Run Fatboy Run, a smart, decidedly British feeling comedy. Schwimmer, of course, made his fame – and untold millions of dollars – as a cast member on Friends, a sitcom that was not terribly smart and was decidedly American. But in his feature directing debut, there isn’t even a hint of Schwimmer’s previous work.
Instead, here is an authentic BritCom about a scared, selfish little man who has shirked responsibilities and avoided commitments his whole life until he wakes up and realizes the view is better running the other direction.
When we meet Dennis Doyle (Simon Pegg from Hot Fuzz, who also co-wrote the script), he’s, well, running – in a full sprint – away from the altar and his beautiful and very pregnant fiancée Libby (Thandie Newton). Five years later, he’s still on the run, specifically chasing down a drag queen who is shoplifting from the London lingerie shop where Denis serves as a security guard. He’s still trying to patch up things with Libby, who keeps the lines of contact open for the former couple’s son.
Everything changes for Dennis when he meets Libby’s new boyfriend (Hank Azaria), who’s successful, nice, and runs marathons for charities. Absently thinking he can reignite the spark with Libby that’s been cold for half a decade if he, too, runs a marathon, Dennis begins training for a long distance run or a major movie metaphor or a little bit of both.
For the most part, Run Fatboy Run suceeds. It’s certainly funny, a testament to Simon Pegg, who has quietly become one of the more reliable comedic leading men in the movies. This is not his funniest performance, but it is more consistently an acting performance than a comedic one. And it has to be that way, or else you won’t feel for Dennis when you need to.
If you want to compare this flick with either Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead, the other two have bigger laughs and maybe more of them, but Run Fatboy Run works harder at its story and characters. The ending, which you could assume involves a marathon, feels a little like a 26 mile run. Otherwise, there are few complaints, even that the Ross half of TV's all-time most annoying couple directed it.
Run Fatboy Run
Starring Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton and Hank Azaria
Directed by David Schwimmer