A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this amusing (if not particularly inventive) British romantic comedy includes a fair amount of swearing (though no words stronger than "s--t" and "pr--k") -- some in front of/directed at children. One kid even gives a grown-up the finger. There's also some random partial nudity -- one character likes to walk around naked below the waist, though viewers only see his backside -- and a fair amount of smoking and drinking (mostly in social situations). The lead character goes through a positive transformation, becoming more self reliant and turning himself into a better person.
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What's the story?
To call Dennis Doyle (Simon Pegg) a loser wouldn't be such a stretch. He's an out-of-shape lingerie store security guard who's behind on the rent for his grubby basement apartment, and -- worst of all -- he abandoned beautiful, kind-hearted Libby (Thandie Newton) at the altar when she was hugely pregnant with his baby. Lucky for Dennis, she's forgiving; she even welcomes his presence in their son's life -- despite the fact that he cusses in front of little Jake (Matthew Fenton) and even gets arrested trying to buy tickets from a cop. Still, it's obvious he loves both Jake and Libby, though it's not entirely clear whether she feels the same ... especially when her new boyfriend, Whit (Hank Azaria), arrives on the scene. Rich, handsome, and prone to running marathons for charity, he's everything Dennis isn't. Determined to prove that he's no loser after all, Dennis decides to run Whit's next marathon, too -- never mind that it's just three weeks away and the only running Dennis has ever done is away from the altar.
Is it any good?
Original it isn't, but there's no denying RUN, FAT BOY, RUN's charms, thanks to Pegg, who smartly avoids playing sentimental -- even during the movie's patently sentimental bits. He's still got bite even when he's obviously tugging at the heartstrings. Newton exhibits a knack for comedy (though her responses are sometimes exaggerated for comedic effect), and Dylan Moran is perfect as Dennis' unapologetically irresponsible best friend. But what's up with director David Schwimmer's constant flashing of Moran's naked behind? Plus, as delightful as Harish Patel -- who plays Dennis' landlord, Mr. Goshdashtidar -- may be, it's too formulaic to have him go from enemy to supporter overnight. And the big gross-out scene revolving a blister is funny, but barely; better to leave such hijinks to Judd Apatow and the Farrellys.
Still, it's been a while since a British romantic comedy managed to be appealing without relying on a stuttering, bumbling, slightly scandalous, Hugh Grant-like lead to see it through. It might not sit well after 26.2 hours of marathon viewing, but Run, Fat Boy, Run ably makes it to the finish line.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the appeal of "ugly duckling" stories. Why are filmmakers -- and audiences -- so drawn to them? What sets this movie apart from others in the genre? How is this type of story represented elsewhere in the media? Why is the concept of the "makeover" so irresistible? Families can also discuss Dennis' behavior. If you were Libby, would you give him another chance? What motivates him to run the marathon? Is he really more palatable than Whit in the end? If so, why?
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