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'Run Fatboy Run': We'd Walk, if It Weren't for Simon Pegg

Simon Pegg's pratfall-prone charm, as a Londoner who decides to run a marathon to win back the mother of his young son, is pretty much the only good thing about "Run Fatboy Run."
Simon Pegg's pratfall-prone charm, as a Londoner who decides to run a marathon to win back the mother of his young son, is pretty much the only good thing about "Run Fatboy Run." (By Ollie Upton -- Picturehouse)

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By Desson Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 28, 2008

Just how bad a movie will we sit through to get our Simon Pegg on?

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You know Pegg -- the funny British bloke in that zombie comedy classic "Shaun of the Dead," the one in which the only way to kill the undead is to slam their catatonic heads with a cricket bat? Perhaps you caught him in "Hot Fuzz," the gun-culture sendup in which he played the macho London cop forced to keep the peace in a sleepy English hamlet?

What makes him so special is his amazing ability to play the Everyman Englishman, perpetually bamboozled by everyday circumstances. He turns every discomfort into a sort of clumsy ballet, and we can't help watching with pleasure for his next chagrined wince, nervous smirk or out-of-the-blue pratfall.

Unfortunately, "Run Fatboy Run," directed by David Schwimmer from a script by Pegg and Michael Ian Black, is a real test of our esteem, thanks to the tedious romantic-comedy cliches to which it subjects its characters -- and us. It's only thanks to Pegg's natural ability to charm and amuse that there's even a question of sitting through this.

Pegg plays Dennis, a Londoner who makes the mistake of his life by running out -- literally -- on a wedding with Libby (Thandie Newton) when she's pregnant. (We are supposed to ignore the complete absurdity of a sophisticated, runway-gorgeous woman in a relationship with the hapless, scrawny, potbellied Dennis in the first place.)

Realizing his mistake five years later when a new slick suitor named Whit (Hank Azaria) threatens to marry Libby and become stepdaddy to young Jake, Dennis decides to try to get her back. Somehow he thinks that running a charity marathon in London is going to do the trick.

Rather like the faltering way Dennis runs the race, Pegg the performer keeps us watching, ever hopeful for a decent gag. We didn't exactly count those slapstick moments, but we'd be hard-pressed to come up with more than five.

So if you decide, in your DVD-renting largesse, to see this movie, we'd recommend you fast-forward through most of it. Stop at that very male-awkward moment in a locker room when Dennis tries to keep an outwardly calm expression as Whit -- completely naked and unself-conscious about it -- dusts his private region with talcum powder. And hit the button when a hand-to-hand fight between Dennis and his best friend Gordon (Dylan Moran) escalates from childlike slapping (what in England they call "handbags") into a fight to the death involving a trash can lid and -- holy inside reference -- a cricket bat.

Run Fatboy Run (100 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for nudity and profanity.


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