Face it, romantic comedies are developed by producers who sit around trying to figure out which two movie stars audiences want to see fuck each other. It's kind of like a $40 million game of Barbie: Malibu Angelina, meet Brad doll. As long as there are comely stars to fill, uh, roles, the configurations are endless.
But the pairing of Simon Pegg and Thandie Newton truly boggles the mind. Who are these "stars"? Newton is Terrence Howard's hot wife in Crash (she gets trapped in the burning car), and Simon Pegg is ... well, the pasty-skinned little guy in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz — so it's not impossible to imagine him a redheaded Brit version of Ben Stiller. And if Run, Fat Boy, Run is any indicator, Pegg's career will follow a similar trajectory: Inspired comedian becomes box-office whore.
Stiller's now a brand — a predictable, profitable formulaic cog. If Pegg has any comedic self-respect, he'll bail before he's in the next Along Came Polly. Or worse, becomes the next Rob Schneider.
As it is, Run, Fat Boy, Run is so clumsy and bland that it's almost pointless to recount the plot specifics because it's all too conventional: Irresponsible man-child (Pegg) who left his one true love (Newton) at the altar fights to get her back when she falls for a slick, rich dude (Hank Azaria) — who is actually a Grade-A dick. What's shocking is the movie was co-written by Pegg ... with comedian Michael Ian Black, whose acerbic deadpan style would've suggested he was better than this.
Where Pegg's last two films brilliantly spoofed (and paid homage to) their respective genres — zombie horror and buddy-cop actioners — Run simply embraces every tired romantic comedy cliché. From the droll, scene-stealing best friend to Pegg's limping attempt to finish a marathon — captured on local TV and cheered on by crowds, no less — we've seen almost every plot turn done better somewhere else.
Maybe it's director David Schwimmer's influence. The jokey sentimentality and by-the-numbers romantic beats of Friends permeate nearly every frame here — without the benefit of Matthew Perry's laugh-out-loud one-liners. Yeah, there are naked butts, spurting foot blisters and skeevy little running shorts, but most of Run, Fat Boy, Run's humor skews more toward Benny Hill than the surreal genius of Pegg's '90s TV show Spaced (currently slated to be remade and mutilated by Hollywood).
Even the title disappoints. Pegg's no Chris Farley tubby, so any suggestion of tackling body-image issues here is dispelled.
Far flabbier than its protagonist, Run, Fat Boy, Run would be a complete failure if it weren't for its more-than-competent cast, a few mild laughs and Pegg's decent attempt to articulate loser psychopathology. Unfortunately, that's hardly reason to give up 90 minutes of your life.
Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.