After the critical and audience reception of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz was so bizarrely over the top, it seemed inevitable Simon Pegg would eventually crash to Earth and he certainly does so in Run Fatboy Run.
Pegg is Dennis, a discontented, unfit and overweight security guard for a lingerie store in London, who has never recovered from the moment, five years previously and shown in flashback, when he left his pregnant fiance Libby (Thandie Newton) at the altar. Their son Jake (Matthew Fenton) adores him, but the threat of Libby’s new relationship with American businessman Whit (Hank Azaria) provokes a new desire to redeem himself and chase his one last chance at happiness.
This rather dismal plot is supplemented by yet another depiction of the ‘boy who never grew up’ as a smoking, drinking slob in a dead-end job who is always late to spend time with his son. This character archetype is becoming more and more offensive as time goes by – one wonders what the audience reaction would be if a woman were portrayed in this manner. The first half of the film also features dull ‘visual comedy’ including the always classic men’s shower scene in which Dennis, instead of comparing himself to Whit in terms of career, clothing, car or any other surrogate measure of manhood, gets to confront his foe’s masculinity directly. The humour seemed lost on most in my audience at least.
Astonishingly, Run Fatboy Run recovers favour in its later stages, successfully building momentum and creating a surprisingly moving final act in which Dennis succeeds in becoming a character worth rooting for. That this seems to come from nowhere is the big surprise – the disappointingly generic first two thirds of the film suggest this outcome is less than likely.
Pegg is adequate, although one wonders whether he is actually playing himself. His characters in ‘Spaced’ and Shaun of the Dead aren’t too far from Dennis – the only real departure for him has been in Hot Fuzz. Newton and Azaria play their roles with a certain charm, and Fenton is adorable as Jake. Dylan Moran steals most of his scenes as Dennis’ best mate Gordon.
Although it starts out shakily, the transformation of Run Fatboy Run into an enjoyable romantic dramedy means the film can’t be written off entirely. Perhaps best left for a Friday night DVD session.Rating: