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Dennis (Pegg) leaves gorgeous pregnant Libby (Newton) at the altar, terrified (and right) that he isn't good enough for her. When he finds out she's about to marry marathon runner and general overachiever Whit (Azaria), Dennis decides to prove to her he can change by running the upcoming Nike charity run.
There have been a lot of films on the 'About A Boy' model (both before and after) about boys who refuse to grow up despite the fact that they are now fathers to boys themselves. But this gem of a film really goes the extra mile, so to speak.
First, Simon Pegg is the most charming thing to come out of Britain since Hugh Grant captured the attention of Hollywood in 'Four Weddings and a Funeral,' and unlike Grant who is at heart a serious if excessively bashful actor, Pegg is a truely funny guy.
His Dennis is at once laughably incompetent and thoroughly likable, from his job as a security guard in a ladies' lingerie store to his best friend, his ex's cousin to his chummy relationship with his son.
It's probably too easy to call Newton 'luminous,' although it's definitely the first word that springs to mind. Her Libby is more than just the object of two men's attentions; she's the one who has struggle to make the choice between safety with Whit, who needs to be at the center of and in control of everything, or jumping the ship. Returning to Dennis never seems to be in question, not while he remains basically the same guy who deserted her once. She's happy he wants a relationship with his son, but continually disappointed with Dennis's irresponsibility.
And it's wonderful to see Hank Azaria properly cast for once. The voice of so many Simpsons characters from Apu to Chief Wiggum has been through the ringer in Hollywood with films like 'Godzilla' and many others notable only for their forgettability. But he's great here as the too-perfect Whit who, in the end, only lacks a spark of humanity to make him Libby's ideal match.
'Fatboy' is David 'Ross' Schwimmer's feature directoral debut. He's cut his teeth previously on a couple of TV movies and a smattering of episodes of 'Friends' and (don't put this on a resume) 'Joey.' But if this is any indication, he may just prove himself the most talented of the former 'Friends.' 'Fatboy' is a real treat, moving without seeming manipulative, and often hilariously funny. It shows yet another side to the versatile Pegg, his flabby Dennis a far cry from his super-cop of the recent 'Hot Fuzz.'And it gives a great chance to see more of Newton and Azaria, two actors who have always seemed to be underused in whatever film roles they have had before.
It's also a thoroughly British film, with stars from the UK including London itself, but there's no reason to believe it won't find as pleased an audience in North America as previous cross-the-pond comedies like 'Four Weddings' and Nottinghill. Pegg is poised to become a mega-star (hopefully he'll be able to keep the prostitutes out of his car) and Schwimmer, with luck, has arrived as a capable and terrific comic director.
3 out of 4