The idea of David Schwimmer - still best-known as geeky Ross on "Friends" - directing his first feature might be enough to send some people scattering in the other direction. But Schwimmer, who has directed episodic TV, shows off a winning competency with "Run Fatboy Run," a likable, if formulaic, feel-good romantic comedy set in contemporary London.
Much of the film's spark is generated by Simon Pegg ("Hot Fuzz," "Shaun of the Dead"), who plays Dennis, the kind of charmingly neglectful guy who doesn't pay his rent and abandons his pregnant fiancee, Libby ( Thandie Newton), at the altar. In other words, "commitment" is a four-letter word.
But Dennis decides he wants to change his life, partly to be a better part-time dad but mostly because Libby plans to marry strapping Whit ( Hank Azaria), a successful American businessman who seems to have everything - including the determination to finish the upcoming London Marathon. To prove to Libby that he can complete something, and perhaps win her back, couch-potato Dennis decides to start training for the 26.2-mile race, even though he probably gets winded just bellying up to the bar.
Instead of gross-out American humor, Schwimmer and screenwriters Michael Ian Black and Pegg employ a more modulated, English sense of levity that feels a bit like a Hugh Grant film. That doesn't mean there aren't the obvious physical pratfalls you'd expect from the plot contrivance, just that they're not overdone.
There isn't a lot of chemistry between Dennis and Libby (why would she be interested in such a dolt in the first place?), and by the end, when it flips into "Rocky"/"Chariots of Fire" you-can-achieve-your-dream mode, "Run Fatboy Run" is coasting on empty. Still, this breezy run through predictability is better than it has a right to be.
Get showtimes and details for "Run, Fatboy, Run."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times