Run Fat Boy Run
It’s always harder to analyze comedy than drama. Not only are there the internal and external grumblings of why one would bother when there’s so many movies out there trying very hard to be weighty, but the quality of the text tends to disintegrate under examination like cotton candy in a spin cycle. No matter how well considered, comedy either works or it doesn’t, and no comedy works for every audience.
At the very least, however, there is a reliable evolution in the craft of film comedy. Buster Keaton’s work is rougher than Jerry Lewis’ which is rougher than Mel Brooks’ which is rougher than the digitally enhanced spawn of the Farrelly brothers (to pick comedic auteurs at random rather than by personal preference). The craft becomes smoother and slicker, more FX’ed and less polite. Comedy has to be faster now—more laughs per minute, no convoluted set-ups—deeper—better characterization, more intricate plot—and aware of or within genres. The Butcher Boy is still funny, particularly in the sheer athleticism of Keaton and Arbuckle, but as a new movie, one that ignored the advances in craft and audience expectation, it would be a snore. New comedies like new horror films have to be novel, in a way that drama doesn’t.
Unfortunately, Run Fat Boy Run is a call back to the weak comedies of the 80s, only a series of unconnected jokes embedded together in sticky schmaltz. It has a long future ahead of it on Saturday afternoons on USA and SpikeTV, sandwiched in between the lesser efforts of Bill Murray and Steve Guttenberg. Semi-attractive loser has lost improbably hot girl to Mr Perfect. SAL spends two-thirds of the movie mouthing funny loser-isms while hot girl and various straight men gurn in reply. Eventually, SAL makes one dramatic gesture that wins the girl back without addressing the many good reasons he lost her in the first place, mostly because Mr Perfect is slowly revealed to be more evil than Rasputin, and there are only two males in the movie’s universe. Hot girl (and often included, The Kid), have no personalities other than reacting to SAL’s jokes, denying his demands, and in the case of The Kid, occasionally upstaging SAL. End on visual gag involving SAL’s secondary character best friend.
The title, a Run Lola Run pun nearly a decade out of date, should have been a warning and is invalidated in the first five minutes when a gasping Simon Pegg points out that, with his small stunt beer belly, he isn’t fat, just not fit. The audience has to do the work of mentally superimposing Pegg’s usual comedy partner, Nick Frost, over Pegg’s slim form and muscular legs as he pretends to gasp his way up Hampstead Heath.
Run Fat Boy Run particularly suffers because two of its stars earned their growing acclaim with hilarious, edgy—and well known—staples of modern UK comedy: Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, and Black Books. Run Fat Boy Run watches like a weak cup of tea brewed from the strengths of these—the genre-twigging, the appealing losers and drunks—while dropping the fast edits, ensemble interactions, and any personality in female characters.
The script has potential. There are funny, shocking visual gags and verbal pricks. But can I laugh at an older man bittersweetly remembering his deceased wife—Most of all, I miss all the fucking—in the same film I am to be sincerely swept up in a child-level domestic resolution?
Is this secretly trying to be a Hot Fuzz-esque send-up of romantic comedies? Nah. This is very much an example of the genre, one that only emphasizes the need for an intelligent meta-parody a la Shaun…something that both works as a romance and a comedy while salting the earth behind it. Possibly starring Mark Heap and Tamsin Greig.
In fact, rent Green Wing instead to keep your brain cells properly disturbed.