): Simon Pegg
and Asia Argento are birds of a feather: They both have a preternatural ability to enliven even the limpest of cinematic propositions. Whereas Argento has a longer track record (xXx, Land of the Dead, and the recent Boarding Gate), Pegg doesn't have the American market completely (forgive me) pegged, nor does he have the pedigree. But the man has a way of balancing sarcasm and general incompetency that gives a goofy zing to some mighty soggy material (The Good Night, Mission: Impossible III).
With Run Fatboy Run, the directorial debut of Friends' David Schwimmer
, Pegg moves up in the world and proves that he can, indeed, carry a movie. Written by Michael Ian Black, a seminal member of the comedy troupe/television show The State, Fatboy tells the story of Dennis (Pegg), a 1980s reject who gets the daft idea to leave his pregnant wife Libby (Thandie Newton
) at the altar. A few years later, he has a gut, works security for a lingerie shop, and must vie for the attention of his son and once-fiancé against Whit (Hank Azaria
), a healthy businessman who wants to marry Libby. This passive-aggressive tête-à-tête finally leads Dennis to attempting to compete in the same marathon as Whit. Article continues below
Though filmed entirely in the UK and boasting three English actors/comedians, Schwimmer's film carries many of the same dimwit tropes of his American sitcom stomping ground. Azaria, a forceful comedian, is relegated to the sort of straight-man role that would usually befit someone like James Marsden. Azaria plays the character competently, but without inspiration. The film then leaves us with two other comic presences: Harish Patel as Dennis' landlord, and Dennis' cousin Gordon, played by Irish comedian and Shaun of the Dead co-star Dylan Moran
. Patel delivers a great punchline to a breezy chat with Dennis about marriage, but Pegg and Moran have seemingly worn out their tread; their routine feels like an old joke that hasn't yet become retro.
Newton, a gorgeous but slight actress, has nothing to give the role of Libby, but that's not necessarily her fault. Black's script, given an unnoticeable buff-and-shine by Pegg, lacks thought and, in the death knell for any British comedy, takes itself seriously. But Pegg has charm to spare and good timing, both vocally and physically: When Whit treats Dennis to a cycling class, Schwimmer cuts to a sweat-covered Pegg with an indescribably funny stance and expression. Moments like these, sadly, are few and far between. Though written by two gifted comedians, Run Fatboy Run ends up feeling like a boring limerick told over and over again.