Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) must have really arrived: he gets a non-buddy, non-spoof comedy with mawkish serious undertones all to himself. After panicking and leaving his pregnant girlfriend Libby (Thandie Newton) at the altar, Dennis (Pegg) shambles about through a slacker’s life. But when Libby gets serious with the successful, athletic Whit (Hank Azaria), Dennis decides, through a combination of competitive instinct and spite, that he will run the London marathon and win back his intended.
At first, the funny-slacker-grows-up arc seems akin to the recent Judd Apatow pictures, or maybe a Nick Hornby novel. But Fat Boy, with its wacky side characters and half-hearted set pieces, more resembles a lazy late-period Adam Sandler comedy. So of course the only major female character has no discernible personality and is coveted mainly for her beauty, with proven child-bearing ability as a presumable bonus. True to his buddy-happy roots, Pegg is far more at home with other blokes, even a contrived vulgar-best-friend character, played here by Dylan Moran.
In fact, Run, Fat Boy, Run sometimes plays like a comedy in search of buddies. The screenplay, rewritten by Pegg from an original draft by Michael Ian Black, keeps futzing around with minor subplots before finally rejecting the elemental simplicity of the title. After devising a clever solution to the central problem and hook — the unlikelihood of Dennis actually finishing a marathon — the filmmakers proceed to blow it into a big, cheesy circus, one of those endings where suddenly the characters’ lives receive breathless news coverage. It’s a wonder squad cars don’t bang into each other — or that movie-mad Pegg wouldn’t know better.
Opens March 28