A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 303 – Run, Fatboy, Run

Run, Fatboy, Run – December 28th, 2010

This is yet another of Andy’s impulse purchases. I’m sure we’d both seen ads for it on television when it came out, but aside from those and knowing Simon Pegg was in it, I know I had no clue what it was really about. And while I do like Simon Pegg and have enjoyed him in everything I’ve seen him in so far, I probably wouldn’t have picked this up on his merits and the ads alone. Then again, had I looked and seen that Dylan Moran, Hank Azaria and Thandie Newton were all leads in it I might have given it a chance. But Andy gave it a chance for me, and so I didn’t have to make that decision.

Now, this is not the funniest comedy I’ve ever seen. It has a bit of a mish-mash of physical and verbal humor, including one gross-out gag and some jokes I didn’t find funny at all. It tries to balance a typical rom-com plot with Simon Pegg’s brand of antics and to be honest the two things seem very opposed at times. But it’s still a lot of fun. It doesn’t have to be perfectly balanced in order to be funny. And if it didn’t have Simon Pegg doing his thing through the whole movie it probably would be just a standard rom-com. Granted, Azaria and Newton as the romantic half of the rom-com equation would elevate it quite a bit, but Pegg, with Moran at his side (plus the fantastic Harish Patel) make it something unique, or at least closer to unique than the crap romantic comedies I’m used to the label being applied to.

The movie opens with Dennis (Pegg) leaving his fiance (Newton) at the altar when she’s visibly pregnant with their baby. Not an auspicious beginning, right? Right. Five years later his life is crap. He’s an out of shape security guard for a lingere store, taunted by bra thieves and behind on his rent. Libby (Newton) has custody of their son, Jake, and has built a new life for herself. When Dennis meets her new boyfriend, Whit (Azaria), he decides he’s going to be all macho and try and prove himself to Libby and win her back. Now, what I like here is that while he’s utterly determined to “beat” Whit and “win” Libby, Libby has no intention of being won. And while in true rom-com fashion there is a hopeful ending for Dennis, it’s not a sure thing. There’s no moment where I felt like Libby gave up her choices just because Dennis decided to try and prove himself. After all, he did leave her at the altar.

When he finds out that Whit is a runner and is going to be racing in the London Marathon, the truly unfit Dennis decides to run too, to prove that he’s just as good as Whit if not better. And so a good chunk of the middle of the movie is Dennis training for the marathon. Training ridiculously, with his landlord (Patel) wielding a spatula to smack him with if he slows down, and his friend Gordon (Moran) cheering him on since he has a rather large bet on Dennis actually finishing the race. Not winning, just finishing. The odds in his favor are not good, so it’s a sizable bet. And through it all Whit and Dennis sort of verbally spar. Whit is ten times the man Dennis is. He’s ten times everything Dennis is. And up until the end he seems like a pretty decent, if annoying, guy. He’s decent with Jake, he’s sweet to Libby, he’s got money, he’s got a career, etc. He’s just… grating. He’s the sort of guy who just irks you by being so damn good at everything. You just know there’s a jackass (or a shit-head) lurking in there somewhere and he’s enough of a jerk to also be a good actor so he can cover it up. There was a comment on IMDB that Azaria’s comedic talent was wasted here, but I disagree. He’s not the slapstick funny guy, but he pulls off Whit with fantastic skill, making him likable and unlikable at the same time.

The same can really be said of Pegg as Dennis. He’s no prize at the outset. He’s awkward and lazy and obnoxious and seems to much up whatever he does. He’s got no interest in making his own life better, and he’s frustrating to watch. And yet he’s got a sweet core to him. You don’t want him to truly fail. Now, personally, I didn’t want him to fully succeed without a major effort either, but I didn’t want him to fail. Once he actually starts running in the marathon and the movie follows his hilarious and painful effort, I felt torn between cheering him on because come on, he is the hero, and wishing he’d just collapse, because it would have been good for comedic purposes. And the movie manages to have him do both.

Now, it was a little difficult not to watch this and see Sgt. Angel and Bernard Black as the comedic leads, with half the town of Springfield as their foe, but then there was Thandie Newton as well, who did a wonderful job with Libby, keeping things from getting too slapstick while not being the simpering damsel the role could have been. And I also have to give some credit to Matthew Fenton, who played the five year old Jake far better than many kid actors might have.

It was a cute movie. Not a wildly funny as Hot Fuzz but certainly not the sort of soft and mindless crud I expect when I hear “romantic comedy”. Sure, there’s unevenness, and man, that one gross-out thing was truly disgusting (I laughed anyhow), but it’s still fun. It kept me laughing and I enjoyed it all the way through.


December 28, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Run Fatboy Run

December 28, 2010

Run Fatboy Run

I bought this movie because it stars Simon Pegg. I knew nothing about it besides that. And now that I’ve finally taken the time to watch it I couldn’t be happier to announce that starring Simon Pegg was easily enough to make the movie a great deal of fun. Well, it helps that you have Dylan Moran and Hank Azaria as well.

In this delightful romp Simon Pegg plays Dennis, a sad sort of looser who has ruined his own life because he cannot finish anything he ever sets out to do. Dylan Moran plays his best friend Bernard Black Gordon. Dennis leaves his pregnant fiance, Libby, on their wedding day, and his life is destroyed as a result. Years later we find him still living alone, working as an out of shape security guard. He is still desperately in love with Libby but his only real contact with her is through their son Jake. In the mean time Libby has found the most perfect man ever – an American banker named Whit who is successful, handsome, friendly, and athletic. Whit is training to run in a marathon, which somehow puts the idea into Dennis’ head that if he can run in the marathon he can somehow win Libby back.

There were so many hilarious moments in this movie. I found myself frequently laughing out loud, which is not something I’m given to do most of the time. There are gross moments of physical humor, great bits of slapstick comedy, and plenty of just plain funny dialog. The stand-outs for me were Dylan Moran as Gordon, a character very reminiscent of the one Dylan plays in Black Books, and Harish Patel as Dennis’ kindly landlord Mr. Goshdashtidar. Dylan is a master at making hilarious faces and wringing laughs from the delivery of even the plainest line. Harish is just so charming as Mr. G – a fellow who sees somewhere in Dennis there might be a good person, if only he can find it. Any time either of them is on screen you know there are going to be some great laughs, and when both of them appear together to train Dennis for the marathon it’s simply superb.

The perfect boyfriend Whit is played perfectly by Hank Azaria. He’s just so charming and impossible to compete with that you have to feel sorry for Dennis. He’s so clearly outclassed. Libby is a strong female character and a real challenge. Thandie Newton has several moments where the conflict of a woman dealing with a real affection for this fool who betrayed her are played out entirely on her face and you can almost hear her thoughts, so clear is her acting. It’s quite impressive.

Holding the whole production together is Simon Pegg. Dennis is a loser, it’s true, but he’s a lovable one. He plays the common comedic role of the eternal man-child who must learn somehow to be an adult, but does it with a kind of class. Ultimately this is the story of Dennis trying to prove to himself that there is something – anything – that he can actually see through to the end. At first he tricks himself into thinking that it’s for Libby, and certainly Gordon thinks that Dennis is running for him (he having bet every penny he has at long odds that Dennis will somehow complete the marathon) but ultimately Dennis has to realize that he’s running for himself.

It’s always a sign of a good movie when I reach the end and immediately want to go back and watch it again. Maybe someday soon I’ll have time to listen to the director’s commentary with director David Schwimmer, Thandie Newton, Simon Pegg and his mother. In the mean time I’ll have to be satisfied with some Black Books. We followed the movie up with the first episode of the third series, which features a guest appearance by Simon Pegg.

December 28, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment