widescreen – ‘Run,’ a step above the rest

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Running a marathon, even for the most athletic and determined people, is a feat. For Dennis (Simon Pegg), a down-on-his-luck, out-of-shape, lovelorn smoker, it might be the only thing that wins back the heart of the woman he loves.

“Run, Fat Boy, Run” represents the feature-length film directorial debut of David Schwimmer, best known his role as the neurotic Ross on the television sitcom “Friends.” Schwimmers gift for comedy — although perhaps not originality — shines through on the big screen as he leads a strong cast through all the ups and downs of love and running, ending with a strong finish. Its a typical redemption love story, but its better than most comedies in this genre.

Dennis is your consummate beta male, mediocre in everything he does. Five years after leaving his pregnant fiance Libby (Thandie Newton) at the altar, he’s working security at a womens clothing store in London, forever locking himself out of his rented room and foundering as a father.

Dennis longing for Libby increases 10-fold when Whit (Hank Azaria), a dashing American who seems to have it all, wins Libbys heart and starts to usurp Dennis paternal role. In an effort to prove he can commit to something, Dennis vows to run in an upcoming marathon.

Schwimmer sets the stage quickly and effectively, focusing on the humor of a fat boy trying to run, complete with a musical montage to track his progress.

Pegg proves his comedic force, equally able to play the physical gag as he is to deliver a punchy line with that dry British wit. Though hes hamming it up for most of the film, one moment when hes looking for his son Jake (Matthew Fenton) proves his acting chops. In short, Pegg makes sure we like this bumbling idiot who does everything wrong.

Fortunately, Pegg is not in this race alone and the supporting cast is equally strong. As his former fiance, Newton is sweet, bubbly and believable as a beautiful women who might just fall for the beta male. Rounding out the family, Fenton is downright adorable as young Jake.

While Azaria does an adequate job as the rival youre supposed to hate, its Dennis unlikely coaches, gambling friend Gordon (Dylan Moran) and landlord Mr. Ghoshdashtidar (Harish Patel), who really whip the movie into shape.

Though perhaps only those wacky enough to run a marathon will be able to get the inside jokes, Pegg and co-writer Michael Ian Black take the odd particulars about long distance races and make them funny and touching.

Ultimately, “Run, Fat Boy, Run” is a film youve seen before, but its good fun every step of the way. While you might not want to be running next to Dennis, hes someone youll be cheering for from the sidelines.

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