A runner needs to be aware of a marathon’s phases. There’s the energetic high at the beginning, the lagging middle, the “wall” – when it’s painful to go on – and finally the sprint to the finish line. It’s a little disappointing to find that “Run, Fatboy, Run” plays out the exact same way.

It’s a shame, given the talent involved with the movie. Michael Ian Black, the writer/actor from the comedy group “Stella,” and the titular fat boy, Simon Pegg, wrote the screenplay. Pegg is well known in United States for “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” both of which he wrote and starred in. Considering Pegg’s record of intelligent British takes on action and horror movies, and Black’s sly wit, one would expect more from their collaboration. Instead, “Run, Fatboy, Run” comes off as a happy little British romantic comedy.

Dennis (Pegg) never finished anything. He left his pregnant fiancée Libby (Thandie Newton, “Crash”) at the altar and five years later is still a “nearly man” – someone who’s nearly there, but never gets the job done. To try to win Libby back and prove he can change, Dennis decides to run the London Marathon.

The beginning of the movie is full of hilarious bits and quick remarks by Pegg. Unable to get his son tickets to “The Lord of the Rings Musical,” he falls victim to a scalping bust, landing him in jail. And the “fat boy” issue ends up surfacing with typical jokes about being overweight.

But the introduction of the marathon subplot drags the movie down. While the training lends to entertaining segments, such as a blister the size of a tennis ball, montages of running across parks or up the stairs have been done before. The film marks David Schwimmer’s feature film directorial debut; however, he’s been around sitcoms for years, even directing episodes of “Friends” and “Joey.” Maybe that’s why some of the camerawork and timing feel a bit like a sitcom.

But the actors do their best to keep it from falling into made-for-TV territory. The cast is superb, and the considerable comedic timing of the supporting actors greatly help the production. Gordon (Dylan Morris, “Shaun of the Dead”) stands out as Dennis’s gambler friend, who is willing to bet his life’s savings to make sure Dennis finishes the race. And Hank Azaria (TV’s “Huff”) as Whit is a great foil to Dennis. Whit is a runner, a successful American businessman in London, and is also dating Libby. Whit is the reason Dennis decides to run the marathon in the first place.

The wall appears at the same time Whit asks Libby to marry him. It appears because the audience knows how the movie will play out. There needs to be shots of Dennis moping, of him pulling out of the race and then finding some reason that pushes him to change his mind.

Schwimmer does well building the anticipation for the climatic marathon. But while it’s a fun rush to the finish line, the film is unable to be more than a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy, featuring a shlubby guy, a hot girl, some sweet moments and some gross-out humor. It’s just a shame considering the talent that’s wasted.

Run, Fatboy, Run

Rating: 2 and a half out of 5 stars

At Showcase, Quality 16 and the State Theatre


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