Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Run Fatboy Run

Run Fatboy Run is not the type of movie you would typically see me reviewing. In reality, the fact that I watched it in the first place surprises even me. The preview turned me off: another movie about an idiot and his idiot ways. Do we really need another one of these?

Apparently, we do.

Was I surprised? A little. Was I impressed? Maybe a smidge. But these are mostly because all I saw from the preview was an unappealing Simon Pegg looking ridiculous as he gets in shape. How much can a person expect from that?

The opening part was actually interesting enough that I thought, “Maybe there’s more to this than I originally thought.” Pegg plays Dennis Doyle, and we first become acquainted with him when he runs away from his girlfriend, Libby (played by a too-attractive Thandie Newton), leaving her at the altar. Pregnant. Fast forward to 5 years later and he’s living by himself in a shabby apartment, not paying his rent on time and not exactly being a shining role model for his son, Jake. He clearly loves Jake and is involved in his life, but Dennis is just terrible at following through on things.

Even though Dennis left Libby at the worst possible time, he still cares for her and has high hopes of them getting back together. She deals with him politely enough, only wanting to make sure Jake has a relationship with his father. Eventually she finds a new man, Whit, an American businessman who’s in excellent shape and does something that Dennis doesn’t: finish things. Of course this guy pisses Dennis off, and he feels like he has to compete with Whit for Libby as well as Jake.

In his lame, desperate attempts to convince Libby that he’s better than Whit, Dennis learns that Whit runs marathons. In fact, he’s running in one coming up in London. What better way to compete with this guy? What better way to gain admiration from his son and his friends, and prove to Libby that he really IS a finisher?

And so, with three weeks to train (I will say, there were some decent humorous moments here) and with a little help from his friends, Dennis learns some discipline and stamina. He starts to connect with some of the people around him in a new way as he gains their support. Through the process, he learns more about himself and what he can offer. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but if you’ve ever seen a movie before, you probably won’t be too surprised. ;)

Run Fatboy Run is directed by David Schwimmer in what I believe is his first film attempt. I’ll be honest: it’s not very promising as a first shot at directing. To his credit, Schwimmer recognizes good acting and directs his characters pretty well. But just because Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton and Hank Azaria can act doesn’t make this film worth watching.

Even though Run Fatboy Run is full of stupid gags, it still has a lot of heart. I can get behind that, definitely. And Simon Pegg is able to portray his characters in such a unique, complete way, which I absolutely admire. However, none of these things were enough to save it for me. The comedic moments were so base and I barely got a smile out of most of them. And the plot unfolds in such a way that I could predict almost exactly what was going to happen throughout the entire thing. In the end, I really felt I got very little out of the experience. There was an abundance of predictability, corny-ness, and eye-rolling moments. For me, none of these things really make for a very enjoyable movie-watching experience.

Rating: 1

Run Fatboy Run fell flat for me. A good lesson, it had some heartfelt moments that were sprinkled heavily with run-of-the-mill slapstick humor. As a result, the moments didn’t successfully complete their purpose. The cast saved it to a degree (in keeping it from being terribly dull) but I didn’t feel particularly moved or entertained. It was so pre-packaged, trite and cliché that I couldn’t invest myself at all, I just kept looking for the next predictable ingredient in the plot recipe.

Though I’m overflowing with apathy about it, I have to say that the few moments I laughed and the sweetness of it all pushed it over into the positives. While I would say that I didn’t really like it, I’d have to admit that I’d rather watch it than stare at a blank television screen. Most of the time.


Dr. Worm said...

I fully grant that Fatboy was entirely predictable; things unfolded precisely the way you'd expect a movie to unfold.

And yet, I really liked it. Not 22 liked it, but maybe 9 or 10 liked it.

What is this magic formula that turns a predictable movie for all into an enjoyable ride for some?

I have a theory.

I noticed Particle Man recently really enjoyed Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, but when WLC and I watched it, we thought it was a bit blah.

I know WLC really likes Jane Austen novels (and movies based on them) -- but they're all fairly formulaic to me: spunky but not overly attractive female heroine eventually finds true love with man who just happens to be rich.

And I liked Fatboy, whereas WLC wasn't really thrilled.

So, I'm thinking that it's all about identification with the main character. If you can put yourself in the protagonist's shoes--if his/her struggles seem like your struggles--then suddenly an arguably formulaic story is YOUR story. Which means that YOU get to win at the end.

Particle Man, I have good reason to believe, was able to identify with Nick.

I was able to identify with Simon Pegg in Fatboy. (Though, it should be noted: I'm not really fat; I'm just unfit.)

And WLC, of course, sees a bit of herself in all of Austen's heroines.

What do y'all think? Does my theory have merit?

Particle Man said...

it has a lot of merit. all three of us can very strongly identify with the main characters of the films you mentioned (that's not to say that DW is fat or that WLC is "not overly attractive"; quite the opposite on both counts). and the main ingredient for a viewer being able to invest himself/herself in a film is that the main character (or some major character) be relatable. if we can find some element of ourselves in the movie, we feel much more at home watching it.

Stormy Pinkness said...

Much like DW and WLC I will admit that this movie was completely predictable. But I really liked it. I think that one of the redeeming aspects of this film is that the acting is good. I have seen many films were they are predictable and have bad acting. The good acting in this movie made me enjoy the film even though it was predictable, probably because I cared about most of the characters. I would give it an 8.

Moshe Reuveni said...

With regards to the Doctor's theory:
Don't all (or at least most) movies try, to one extent or another, to make you identify with the hero? It is an indicator of a good movie when you do identify (albeit an insufficient sign). Take Das Boot, for example: for the duration of the film, you're a Nazi fighting the Allies.
In Fatboy's case, I couldn't identify with Pegg's character because I found him way too stupid. I mean, we all do stuff we regret, but come on... At the time I gave it a score equivalent to your 0, which puts me in WLC's camp for a change.

Moshe Reuveni said...

P.S. For the record, I'm overweight, and I'm as fit as a racing horse that was shot in the head a month ago because it broke a leg.

Dr. Worm said...

Yes, this is a good point, Moshe. I think I need to polish my theory.

You're right that really every good movie pulls you into identification with the main character. That's why they're considered good movies -- pretty much everyone agrees they were good because pretty much everyone was able to find some identification.

But I'm talking about the next substrata of films: The films that are essentially mediocre but that are extra appealing to a certain few. And I think that the difference can be explained by a gravity analogy.

Good movies are like large planets -- they have enough gravity to "pull in" nearly every free-floating object in its vicinity (that is, nearly everyone agrees it's good.)

This next subset of movies are like smaller planets. They exert a pull only on those object (viewers) that are already in close physical proximity, but exert a negligible amount of pull on those that are beyond a certain radius.

In this case, proximity is the amount of automatic relatability to the main character. I identified with Simon Pegg's struggle, but I can fully understand why others would not. Contrariwise, I can easily imagine the type of person for whom the new movie Confessions of a Shopoholic will be an enjoyable romp, whereas it exerts no gravitational pull on me whatsoever.

I don't know, I'm still working this theory out. Keep poking at it if you're not sold yet.

Moshe Reuveni said...

Oh, I'm totally with you there. I find that in the right mood I can take on almost any crap movie thrown my way, including even a Matthew McConaughey one lately.
As analogies go, I can't say that I paid much thought to constructing a worthy model, but I would prefer electro-magnetism to gravity. With gravity, it’s hard to distinguish the pull of one object from another directly behind it. With electro magnetism we can be sensitive to different frequencies of light at different times, sometimes having a particular sensitivity to x-rays (no matter how faint) while in the next moment we're into radio frequencies. We can even tell if their sources are getting away from us or coming towards us and how quickly. Most of the time, though, we're in the realm of the visible spectrum, galloping whatever the studios push our way...

[Hope the above doesn't sound as stupid as it did to me upon a second read; I was just trying to enjoy a couple of minutes at the office by letting my imagination loose]

Wicked Little Critta said...

Oh my God.

I can't believe this review inspired such comments.

Moshe Reuveni said...

On the contrary, I find it exciting that a review of something so mediocre as this film can raise questions as the ones dealt with here. You're well within your rights to call me stupid, though...