It was anticipated that after nearly a decade on the blockbuster sitcom "Friends," star David Schwimmer would have at least some sense of comedic rhythm. However, I never expected the guy to direct a British slapstick comedy. Turns out, he does a pretty swell job.
Five years ago Dennis (Simon Pegg) made a horrible decision: he left his pregnant fiancée Libby (Thandie Newton) at the altar. Now a sad sack mall security officer with a smoking habit and 30 extra pounds, Dennis finds his life lacking, but refuses to do anything about it. Into Libby's life comes Whit (Hank Azaria), a handsome financial wizard who is better than Dennis at everything, including long-distance running. Dennis, feeling jealous, agrees to partake in an upcoming marathon to prove his worth to Libby, relying on his gambling friend Gordon (Dylan Moran, "Shaun of the Dead") for support. Trouble is, Dennis knows nothing about running, leaving his training a brutal learning process and a test of commitment.
Co-written by Simon Pegg and Michael Ian Black, it's unsettling at first to observe how wacky a picture "Fatboy" is. Schwimmer has a heavy burden to bear with this screenplay, which overflows with combative situations of outright farce, but he proves himself capable of arranging big screen comedy. It's not an outstanding effort, but a tricky script like "Fatboy" needs someone willing to flow along with the lunacy, and Schwimmer doesn't fight this circus of fears and humiliation in the least.
"Fatboy" is really top notch when it concentrates on silly situations and the variety of befuddled reactions Pegg and Moran provide. They are an amazing pair of actors, and their interplay gets the material up and moving, hurdling the often needless pit stops of gross-out humor (a splendid blister joke is ruined by a pus-drenched punchline) and the eventual plunge into one-dimensional screenwriting. Schwimmer is wise to keep his camera trained on Pegg at all times, as the actor can make any sequence worthwhile with his unexpected, jittery retorts and reactions. It's an iffy character to play, since, even with full acknowledgement of legitimate fears, Dennis is a bastard. Pegg's interpretation here is miraculous in getting the audience to comprehend his damaging decisions, and Schwimmer's direction reinforces the funny.
There's a wealth of smiles watching Dennis gear up for his marathon debut and the general tightening of his life while dueling with Whit and his surface perfection. Again, Pegg really gives 100% to the character, and the results are a gas.
The anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1 aspect ratio) presentation on "Fatboy" has to contend with an autumnal glow that Schwimmer pours over the film with saturated concentration. Detail is present throughout and black levels stay crisp, but the fleshtones run fairly hot, often to a distracting degree. A full-screen presentation is also included.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix gives exquisite life to the substantial amount of soundtrack selections that pack the film, filling out the mix with a nice pop sentiment to backdrop the comedy. Dialogue and music are separated very well. A 2.0 mix is also available.
English and Spanish subtitles are included.
A feature-length commentary with actors Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton, director David Schwimmer, and Pegg's mother Gill kicks things off on a conversational, jokey note. The comfort between the participants is palpable throughout, with Pegg leading the charge on the one-liner front, batting around playfully with a game Newton, while Schwimmer (a nervous laugher) attempts to interject fruitful production information. It's a sweet, informative, and intermittently hilarious track that will please fans of the film. A worthwhile listen.
"Deleted Scenes" (7:20) covers some racial misunderstandings, presents a moment of sexual blackmail, and reveals a large amount of brief comedy stings. They can be viewed with or without commentary from Schwimmer.
"Outtakes" (6:47) is the standard offering of crazy mix-em-ups, only presented montage-style with annoying instrumentals to help move matters along.
"Goof" (2:54) is footage of a practical joke played on Pegg during the film's press junket. Who knew that Thandie Newton was capable of such mischief!
And finally, Domestic and International Trailers are included on this DVD.
Problems arrive when Pegg and Black want the audience to feel something for Dennis's struggles, going about it the wrong way by backing up the melodrama truck and dumping noxious heartache all over the final act. Pegg's performance is strong enough to convey Dennis's regret, it doesn't need to be underlined, and I detested how the script turns Whit from a believable rival to moustache-twirling villain; the film loses itself to annoying pandering qualities in a desperate last-chance grab to appeal to all audiences instead of intelligent ones. "Run Fatboy Run" is too rich with potential to be fussing around so carelessly with cliché.