As far as I’m concerned, British wonder-duo Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg are responsible for two of the sharpest comedies of the last decade: the wickedly funny ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and the blazingly hilarious ‘Hot Fuzz.’ In both films, Wright’s witty writing and deliberate direction crafted the perfect framework for Pegg to unleash his quick timing and charming everyman schtick. But as it is with most creative partnerships, the two men had separate careers to think of and, like Damon and Affleck, decided to follow their own paths. Alas, Pegg’s appearance in an underwhelming comedy like ‘Run Fatboy Run’ has left me wondering if the actor should be quite so eager to venture off on his own.
Dennis Doyle (Simon Pegg) was about to marry his pregnant fiancé Libby (Thandie Newton) when a case of cold feet sent him dashing for the door. Five years later, Dennis is out of shape and working as a security guard, Libby is still in touch, but has started dating a successful American businessman named Whit (Hank Azaria), and their young son, Jake (Matthew Fenton), is steadily traversing the boundaries of his parents’ awkward relationship. As it turns out, Dennis is still in love with Libby and concocts a mind-numbingly juvenile plan to win her back: running in the Nike River Run to prove he can finish what he starts. With the help of his friends Gordon (Dylan Moran) and Mr. Goshdashtidar (Harish Patel), Dennis begins training to compete against Whit, overcome his own anxieties, and finally learn to commit.
Honestly, there’s nothing particularly wrong with ‘Run Fatboy Run’... there’s just nothing particularly special about it either. I had a few chuckles at the expense of some well-written situational comedy, enjoyed watching Pegg and Azaria go scowling head to scowling head, and still managed to maintain a small smile when the script veered off course into cliché-ridden waters. First-time film director David Schwimmer even brings a sure-handed confidence to the production and makes decisions that benefit the story. Unfortunately, the writing is terribly hit-or-miss, the comedy is far too dependent on sight gags and worst-day-ever contrivances, and the object of Pegg’s affection -- Newton, bringing anything but her A-game -- is a bland and underdeveloped catalyst for change.
In fact, the entire film, from its jokes to its conventional plot, should feel extremely familiar to anyone who’s watched a romantic comedy in the last eight years. Considering ‘Run Fatboy Run’ was penned by Pegg and the extraordinarily droll Michael Ian Black (member of MTV’s short-lived sketch opus, “The State,” and co-creator of the shamefully overlooked and prematurely-canceled Comedy Central series, “Stella”), I expected a lot more than a by-the-numbers rom-com that any pair of Hollywood hacks could have cranked out in a weekend. The biggest problem is their punchlines and playouts are all too safe. Yes, yes… I know the film is a PG-13 romp where bodily fluids are the most dangerous thing anyone can possibly encounter, but I stopped wondering what was around the next corner within the first fifteen minutes of the film. Comedy, at its very essence, makes us laugh because we’re both surprised and thrilled by something unexpected. That just doesn’t happen here.
As it stands, casual comedy fans who come to ‘Run Fatboy Run’ expecting little more than a cheery British farce will probably find something to enjoy. Sadly, I couldn’t push memories of ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘Hot Fuzz’ out of my head long enough to endure Pegg’s trek through such an ordinary, run-of-the-mill film. I’m sure there’s an audience out there for harmless comedies like ‘Run Fatboy Run’… I’m just not a part of it.
Bleached palette and overblown contrast aside, ‘Run Fatboy Run’ arrives on Blu-ray with a consistent 1080p/VC-1 transfer that only suffers from a few, unsightly issues. First, the good. Colors may be painfully oversaturated at times, but primaries are vibrant, blacks are deep, and whites are quite comfortable (especially considering how hot they sometimes get). Detail is impressive as well. For the most part, textures are crisp, edges are sharp, and the lines in Pegg’s anxious face have been meticulously rendered. There are a few bouts of softness here and there, but it seems to be inherent to the print rather than a problem with the transfer itself. On that note, I also didn’t detect any troublesome artifacting, edge enhancement, or DNR.
Unfortunately, minor crushing, problematic delineation, and some unnatural, oversaturated skintones keep ‘Run Fatboy Run’ from making a bigger impact. It’s also worth noting that the film’s grain field is generally unobtrusive, but occasionally spikes for no apparent reason. It didn’t help that, from time to time, bouts of digital noise reduced overall image clarity ever so slightly. Still, this BD transfer offers quite a dramatic upgrade from its standard DVD counterpart and should manage to please fans of the film.
’Run Fatboy Run’ features a fairly immersive DTS HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track that offers more technical sophistication than one might expect from a chatty comedy. Dialogue is crisp, well prioritized, and neatly distributed across the front channels. The rear speakers are mainly utilized for ambient support, but also help create convincing interior acoustics and transparent movement around the soundfield. Likewise, directionality is spot on and the film’s quick, slapstick pans are flawless. More importantly, subtle LFE presence adds realistic weight to voices and sound effects, all while providing a healthy boost to the low-end tones in the film’s music. Granted, the track doesn’t feature many aggressive assaults or powerful sonic sequences, but it does deftly enhance everything it’s given to produce an engaging and involving mix.
The biggest surprise is that Warner/New Line has deemed ‘Run Fatboy Run’ a suitable candidate for so many technical bells and whistles. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems a DTS HD MA 7.1 monster would be better suited for a film like… oh, I don’t know… ‘Speed Racer.’ Still, I certainly don’t mean to complain about the inclusion of any technically advanced track, regardless of the film it accompanies. Perhaps Warner is finally getting the hint that consumers are looking for the best audio available when they purchase a Blu-ray disc. Here’s to hoping the BD edition of ‘Run Fatboy Run’ signifies a change of pace from the ever-reluctant studio.
(Note the back cover mistakenly lists the primary audio as “Dolby Digital: English 7.1” instead of its DTS HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track.)
’Run Fatboy Run’ arrives on Blu-ray with the same diminutive supplemental package that appears on the film’s standard DVD release. Sadly, its only saving grace is that the majority of the video content is presented in high definition.
While ’Run Fatboy Run’ can’t compete with other powerhouse comedies in Pegg’s canon like ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘Hot Fuzz,’ I’m sure there are some people out there who will dig its uninspired, harmless shenanigans. Thankfully, this Blu-ray release is more reliable than the film itself. It features an above average video transfer and a surprisingly impressive DTS HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track. The only downside is that the supplemental package is shallow and boring. All things considered, I would suggest everyone rent ‘Run Fatboy Run’ long before dropping any serious cash based on Pegg’s presence alone.