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Fat Boy's journey (with a special Movie Natter's guest star)

Posted at 3:29 PM on March 27, 2008 by Euan Kerr

Hank Azaria and Simon Pegg take to the gym in 'Run Fatboy Run' (Images courtesy Picturehouse, Photos by Ollie Upton)

Simon Pegg's new film "Run Fatboy Run" is a fine example that indeed it is the journey and not the arrival that matters. Three minutes into this tale of a man who decides to run a marathon to try to win back the love of his life most people will know the outcome.

Dennis Doyle (Pegg) is a man who has never finished anything. The last important running he did was away from his pregnant girlfriend on their wedding day.

First time director David Schwimmer (yes, he of 'Friends') does a great job of keeping things moving.

However it is the charm of Pegg, best known as Shaun of "Shaun of the Dead," and his supporting cast that make this a very easy ride. There's Irish comedian Dylan Moran and the chain-smoking best friend and trainer. Thandie Newton plays the ex with appropriate exasperated scorn and Hank Azaria is smoothly odious as the rich, marathon running suitor who is drooling all over her. Azaria makes a very fine villain and as he subtly peels back his character he reveals himself as the hidden treasure of this film.

Dennis Doyle is a well-meaning bumbler whose everyman persona has an edge, as audiences get a sense of 'there but by the grace of God go I.' Simon Pegg on the other hand is one to watch.

(Oh, and for those of you who enjoyed/hated the gore of "Shaun" and "Hot Fuzz" the report is that while there is some violence and bloodied knees, there are no viscera.

It's always good of course to get another opinion, and my colleague Tom Weber, who is currently training for his 4th marathon came along to cast his expert eye on this flick.

Here are his thoughts:

... I often find sports movies are made to the chagrin of those who play the sports because the games or meets are depicted in a hard-to-believe fashion. Granted, this movie comes from the same folks as "Shaun of the Dead" so realism isn't going to be a goal. And come on! It's from the same folks who made "Shaun of the Dead!" Just have fun with it!

So let's start by giving some credit: They did a pretty good job of depicted the running experience. Remember "Pride of the Yankees?" Gary Cooper played Yankees legend Lou Gehrig but couldn't bat lefty (as Gehrig did), so they filmed Cooper hitting right-handed, then running to third base and literally flipped the film. In "Run Fatboy Run," no such movie magic was needed.

But I did notice a few things from the running scenes:

- During the actual marathon, towards the end of the movie, the course runs right along the Thames River. Nice for cinematography, but the one shot where they run through what looks like a riverside park and have to dodge around park benches seems a bit far-fetched. Every race I've ever run involves shutting down of wide swaths of cleared road so people can spread out and focus on running and not be bothered with actual objects in the way. (maybe it's different in Europe, where the lay of the land is a little more cramped? Not sure)

- The movie only makes passing reference to our fearless hero's training for the marathon, like it was something he could do when he got around to it. Look, I understand this is a farce comedy and we shouldn't read too much into it. But on the off-chance people watch this movie and think they can run a marathon, I would say this: "Yes, you can. But just know that the training will be the hardest part." In some ways, the actual marathon is easier than all those weeks and months of training beforehand.

- There's also a scene where our runner 'hits the wall,' to use the running term. It's not a bad depiction of how people actually feel, though everyone's wall-hitting is different.

At the end of the day, though, it's meant to be a comedy and I enjoyed it. I definitely enjoyed "Shaun" and "Hot Fuzz" more, but this one wasn't too bad.

P.S. If you're looking for a pretty decent film that has a running theme that's available for rental, I suggest "Saint Ralph."

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