Run Fatboy Run
Directed By: David Schwimmer
Starring: Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton, Hank Azaria, Dylan Moran, Harish Patel, Matthew Fenton
In Run Fatboy Run, Simon Pegg plays Dennis, a thirtysomething London man who works as a security guard at a women's clothing store and has spent his life running from responsibility, never more literally than five years ago when he ran out on his pregnant fiancée, Libby (Newton), on their wedding day. Libby has subsequently allowed him to be involved in his son Jake's (Fenton) life, and Dennis has been hoping to reconcile with her ever since. A wrench is thrown in his plans when he meets Libby's new boyfriend, Whit (Azaria), a "master of the universe" American business executive who also runs marathons for charity. Filled with jealous rage, the lazy and unfit Dennis unwisely declares that he will be running in an upcoming marathon in a matter of weeks. Even more unwisely, Dennis' friend Gordon (Moran), who is also Libby's cousin, bets everything he has that Dennis will complete the marathon. Dylan and Mr. Goshdashtidar (Patel), Dennis' landlord, agree to train Dennis in order to protect their investments in him.
At its heart, Run Fatboy Run is a by the numbers romantic comedy with a transparent three-act structure. It borrows a few elements from sports movies as well, usually with a comic or satirical twist. As is the modern fashion, a handful of gross-out gags are worked in as well.
While not strikingly original, David Schwimmer's debut theatrical feature as a director succeeds modestly by exercising a fair amount of restraint in its approach to the more incredulous aspects of its plot. Simon Pegg is allowed to unleash his seemingly infinite array of comic reactions to pain and humiliation, but the rest of the cast is directed to underplay, which keeps things on an even keel that can sustain the film for its full 100 minutes. The picaresque supporting characters, especially those played by Dylan Moran and Harish Patel, do some kooky and unrealistic things, but the fact that they do so in such a relatively understated way makes it more palatable. Especially impressive is juvenile actor Matthew Fenton, who comes across as surprisingly natural in a role that could easily have degenerated into clichéd cutesiness.
The filmmakers take a cue from the marathon runners they depict and keep things at a steady pace. While Schwimmer and his collaborators may fail to grab first prize in the comedy marathon, they do manage to endure and finish respectably.
The 16:9 enhanced 2.35:1 video is very disappointing. Placing all of the extras as well as a fullscreen version of the film on the same side of a double layered DVD-9 disc appears to have left insufficient bitrate for the video. This results in a transfer with poor detail and obvious compression artifacts. This is compounded by noticeable ringing along high contrast vertical and horizontal edges. In short, this transfer will not hold up on large displays.
The English audio track is available in two low bitrate flavors. There is a 384 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a 128 kbps Dolby Digital 2.0 Pro-Logic matrixed surround track. The sound mix concentrates on the front hemisphere with most of the stereo presence coming from music and only light ambient support in the surrounds. LFE is used to emphasize a few key effects when appropriate.
All extras are presented in 16:9 enhanced video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound unless otherwise indicated below. All extras except for the commentary also have available subtitles in English or French.
Feature commentary with David Schwimmer, Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton, and Gill Pegg (Simon's Mom) is a very low-key affair. Schwimmer and Simon Pegg carry the lion's share of the commentary, occasionally soliciting comments or responding to questions from Newton. Pegg's mother chimes in at the beginning and is barely heard from again until more than halfway through the film, after which she interjects a few minor comments. Discussion covers production details with Pegg offering up several comments on the screenplay adaptation from an earlier draft which was set in New York and Schwimmer covering several technical aspects of the production and praising the creative crew members responsible. There is a lot of talk about the weather, which was inevitable since the film was shot on a tight schedule at real locations throughout London.
Deleted Scenes (7:20 w/"Play All") Is a collection of 14 deleted or extended scenes which can be viewed individually or via a "Play All" option with or without commentary from Schwimmer. They are titled as follows:
- "Where's the Church Dear"
- Gordon & Grandma
- "That was There When I Woke Up"
- Egg & Bacon Sandwich"
- Dennis Bird Watching
- "I Think He's Gonna to Run"
- "Goodbye Dennis"
- The Gang Celebrates
- I'm Gonna Go Help Dennis"
- "That's a Nasty Sprain..."
- "An Ambulance Was Sent for a Dennis Doyle"
- "Gordon Might Have Finally Backed a Winner"
- "As the Night Draws In..."
Outtakes (6:47) includes a number of bloopers, trims, and alternate takes including a few alternate lines of dialog that appeared in the UK release of the film but were substituted in the US version to obtain a PG-13 rating.
Goof (2:43) is presented in 4:3 video and features footage of Simon Pegg preparing for a television interview and falling prey to a practical joke played by Thandie Newton.
When the disc is first spun up, the viewer is greeted with the two minute and 24 second DVD trailer for Be Kind Rewind and a 31 second anti tobacco PSA. They are skippable with the DVD remote's menu button. The Be Kind Rewind trailer is also accessible from a "Sneak Peeks" link on the Special Features menu.
Finally, the disc comes with an insert including a code that can be used to unlock a digital copy of the film. Since it is not compatible with Macintosh computers or iPod portable devices, I did not venture into this feature.
The film is packaged in a standard Amaray case with a paper insert for the digital copy code. The cover image gives away a gag concerning Dennis' sponsor in the marathon, but is nearly as funny on the cover as it is when revealed in the film, so it is a forgivable spoiler.
Run Fatboy Run is a likable if slight British comedy that is structured like a familiar romantic comedy, but also incorporates sports movie elements and is peppered with a few gross-out moments to appeal to audiences accustomed to outrageous gags. The DVD producers were apparently partying like it was 1999 as the lackluster artifact-ridden video and low bitrate audio make it seem like an average effort from nine to ten years ago. Extras consist of a low-key commentary from director David Schimmer, writer/actor Simon Pegg, actress Thandie Newton, and Pegg's mother, a collection of deleted scenes, a montage of outtakes, a brief video of Pegg being subjected to a practical joke, and a Windows exclusive digital copy that is unlocked by a code on an insert inside the DVD case.