Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday's Featured Film - 12/19/08

New movies are usually released to theaters every Friday, but who’s got 10 bucks these days to drop on a movie that may well be a load of crap? Given those odds, each Friday I offer an alternative on DVD that you can rent at your local video store (or in some cases, avoid at all costs). Some will be new releases, others you may have to hunt for, but all of them are available to light up your small screen should it be a lazy Friday night.

Run Fatboy Run

I’m a huge fan of British actor Simon Pegg. I think he’s one of the funniest actors on the planet. Most well known for his two genre-spoofs Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (both of which feature collaborators Nick Frost and Edgar Wright), Pegg is a terrific physical comedian with great timing and a very likeable on-screen persona. He’s the kind of guy you root for while doubling over in laughter. That combination works perfectly in his new film, Run Fatboy Run, the directorial debut of Friends actor David Schwimmer. This being Pegg’s first leading role apart from Frost and Wright, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but the movie delivered laughs aplenty and a sweet story that uses every Rocky-inspired stereotype in the books but pulls it off well.

Pegg plays Dennis Doyle, a security guard at a women’s clothing store who epitomizes the word slacker. His life’s regret is having left his pregnant girlfriend Libby (Thandie Newton) at the alter five years prior. He misses her and he loves his son Jake (Matthew Fenton), but he can never find it in himself to do anything with his life. That changes, however, when Libby begins seeing a new boyfriend, Whit, (Hank Azaria) who is everything Dennis is not – driven, athletic, attractive, wealthy and successful. When Dennis begins to realize that Whit is gaining a better presence in his son’s life than he has, he decides that he has to make a change. Since Whit runs marathons for charity, Dennis decides that’s what he will do. Coached by his best friend (Dylan Moran, who Pegg fans will remember from Shaun) and eccentric landlord (Harish Patel), Dennis sets out to prove to himself and his family that for once in his life he’s capable of finishing something.

As I said, the story here is nothing innovative. Lovable loser trains hard to compete athletically against big, bad, champion. You’ll be treated to the same training montages, crises of confidence, and dramatic finishes you’ve come to expect form a hundred other films. What sets Run Fatboy Run apart is not what it does, but how it does it and who does it. Schwimmer is a pleasant surprise in his first turn behind the camera, pulling off all of the above conventions in a way that never feels cheap and overused. The cast is excellent, especially the dynamic between Pegg and Moran. Azaria ends up mainly playing the straight man, which I didn’t expect, but he does a great job, as does the rest of the supporting cast. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, and the movie does a good job of balancing the more subdued British humor the cast plays to with the more straightforward gags that an American audience expects. Comedy is an extremely subjective genre to evaluate, and those easily offended by sexual humor may be more uncomfortable than humored by some of the jokes (though not on the level of a Wedding Crashers or even the Austin Powers films), but Heather, myself, and the friend we watched it with laughed and laughed a lot. This was a really fun film, and I’d certainly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of Pegg’s previous work. It’s no Hot Fuzz, but it’s a nice holdover until the conclusion of Pegg, Frost, and Wright’s “Blood and Ice Cream” trilogy arrives in a couple years. - ***1/2 (out of 4)

Run Fatboy Run is rated PG-13 for some rude and sexual humor, nudity, language and smoking.

No comments: