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Run Fat Boy Run

More a Marathon Than a Sprint

With its blushingly romantic tone, copious (if harmless) pratfalls, charming moments, and well-intentioned characters, Run Fat Boy Run hits all the right marks to qualify itself as lighthearted matinee fare that does no harm and shatters no clichés.

Five years ago, Dennis (Simon Pegg) ran away at the altar from his pregnant bride, Libby (Thandie Newton). Now he wants to win her back by running again -- this time for a noble cause. Can the slacker suddenly become a winner? Of course! This is a romantic comedy, after all.

In fact, there are enough laughs to keep the pace moving, thanks in part to the colorful characters that inhabit Dennis's world: a cantankerous but supportive landlord (Harish Patel) and a supportive but reckless friend (Dylan Moran).

Terribly out of shape, Dennis is a chain-smoking, absentminded, late-on-his-rent bloke who can barely chase after shoplifters, let alone train for a London marathon. But such discipline is what he believes he'll need to compete for Libby's affections with Whit (Hank Azaria), her attentive, sporty boyfriend. Whit is destined to be a great stepfather for Libby's five-year-old son, Jake (Matthew Fenton), whereas Dennis will always be the loser dad.

Pegg, a decent comedic actor, looks suitably demoralized and ineffectual as Dennis, while Azaria imbues the well-suited Whit with plenty of edge. That might be part of the problem: Whit is so charming at the start that he has to become an arrogant prick not long after in order for Dennis to have any chance at improving his prospects by the film's end. But the change happens too deliberately to be believable, even in such an innocent genre movie as this.

The best thing going for this movie is its setting. Originally written for New York, the film was moved by its producers to the decidedly less-filmed city of London. Cinematographer Richard Greatrex, who lensed Shakespeare in Love, makes this familiar metropolis look surprisingly fresh.

Run Fat Boy Run is a first-time feature for director David Schwimmer. He does the best he can with his limited budget, but he's clearly learning by doing. There's no flair to speak of. He can afford to take things slow, of course, but let's hope this former "Friends" star can break out of the comedic mold (he's no Woody Allen) and make a movie that has legs.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars