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:: Run Fatboy Run

Simon Pegg has been quite a busy man these last few years. After the huge success of “Shawn of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”, his latest creation (co-written with American comedian, Michael Ian Black) is a less ambitious attempt of genre-blending compared with those just mentioned (horror/comedy and action/comedy, respectively), and instead keeps it real with the conventional genre crossing of a romantic comedy. Thankfully, however, Pegg sticks more with what he knows, and so there are certainly a lot more laughs than there are romances. In fact it’s more a paean to the anti-hero in love, and we cringe at our protagonist a hell of a lot more than we lust for him.

Pegg plays Dennis Doyal, a retail store security guard who runs out on his pregnant fiancée, Libby (Thandie Newton), on the day of their wedding day after a sever bout of ‘cold feet’. This is more or less the prelude, and the film formally begins with the caption “5 Year Later”, whereby our (anti) hero has gained a few pounds and in a somewhat desperate state of regret and hopelessness, wishes only for Libby to take him back. But she is much too sensible for that, after being humiliated, embarrassed, and heart broken by the lamentable Dennis, and it doesn’t take long before she starts dating another man, Whit (Hank Azaria). Whit is an American living in London for business purposes. And not only that, he’s seemingly Mr. Perfect. In fact he’s the antitheses of Dennis; he’s chiselled, successful, lean, and most importantly, he runs marathons. And this latter fact is what becomes the premise for the film.

Dennis, trying to reinvent himself, and “earn the respect” of Libby decides to set the benchmark for his transformation, putting the London Marathon at the helm. The film then follows Dennis’ plight to get fit, with best mate Gordon (Dylan Moran) by his side (who has a personal interest in Dennis’s finishing, having placed a large bet with his gangster buddies), and Dennis’s landlord Mr. Ghoshdashtidar (Harish Patel) as the self-proclaimed assistant coach.

It’s not a remarkable script, and certainly not the most original storyline, but it’s a fun film, and doesn’t pretend to be groundbreaking. Indeed it serves more like a ‘safe comedy’ than anything else, with fairly common humour and some obvious sequences. This may in part have something to do with the fact that it was directed by David Schwimmer (yes, Ross from Friends), making his directorial debut for a feature film, hence testing the waters with caution. But this ‘safe’ approach isn’t as daunting as it may seem. It chugs along at a reasonable pace, entertainingly, and keeps you interested the whole way through.

There are some great shots of London, including a spot in Hampstead Heath that lets you view the entire city from afar, and some even better shots of inner-city London, including views from the famous ‘Gherkin’. Some minor casting problems aside (Pegg and Newton are like chalk and cheese, and this relationship isn’t convincing for a millisecond), this is a warm comedy and decent film, and thankfully doesn’t at all feel like a marathon to watch.