What can you say about a movie that features both the blinding loveliness of Thandie Newton and the sight of a man soaked in the contents of a giant foot blister? Stay home. "Run Fat Boy Run," the first movie "Friends" star David Schwimmer has directed, seems to have been packaged at the Farrelly brothers manufacturing plant. The assembly-line work actually appears to have been outsourced to London, where the movie is set.
Like the brothers' best comedies, "Fat Boy" wants to bridge the difference between the unsavory and the sweet by conflating them. Like the least of their work - last year's "Heartbreak Kid" remake comes traumatically to mind - Schwimmer's movie seems all the more inept for trying in the first place.
On the one hand, we have the story of a runaway groom, Dennis (Simon Pegg), who wants his ex-fiancee back (Newton) only after he discovers she's now dating a hedge-fund manager (Hank Azaria). (Five years ago Dennis did a hundred-yard dash away from his bride.) On the other hand, there's the sports movie that breaks out once Dennis, jealous and physically unfit, agrees to run a marathon because the new boyfriend is doing it.
The script comes from Pegg and the American comedian Michael Ian Black, and they deserve credit for stuffing a cross-country picture into a romantic comedy. But the only thing twin formulas do here is double the monotony. Now we have to wait for two dead plots to resolve themselves.
Pegg works hard throughout the whole thing, agreeing to fall down on cue and off. He's not bad, but all the slapstick, mugging, and self-deprecation he's required to do made me think fondly of his director's underappreciated work on "Friends," where Schwimmer was physically inventive and never lazy about delivering off-kilter line readings. He should be starring in this movie instead of trying to dazzle us with gratuitous crane shots and stilted crowd sequences. As for Pegg, his real talents are all almost completely verbal. His wit was put to better use in "Shaun of the Dead" (2004) and last year's "Hot Fuzz," two surprising comedies he co-wrote that failed to get the American audiences they deserved. Those films managed to mock and embrace movie genres without ever seeming as intelligent as they were.
"Run Fat Boy Run" might as well have been written by a rushed piece of software. The program calls for a surprise engagement, a street fight complete with crotch punches, an apartment eviction, and a runaway child - all in about five minutes. As an obstacle course, this is mighty efficient. As comic storytelling, it's painful, not too far from being socked in the crotch.