David Schwimmer, who spent nine years deftly playing Ross on Friends seems to be trying to make a sitcom episode out of this overlong over-conventional under-funny romantic comedy. To put it in its own terms, it might make it as a 100-yard-dash, but does not have the stamina for a marathon.
Simon Pegg plays Dennis, who leaves his pregnant fiancee Libby (Thandie Newton) at the alter when he jumps out the window and runs away. Five years later, Dennis is working as a security guard in a women’s clothing store. He has a warm relationship with his son, but has pretty much let down everyone else. He is out of shape, he smokes too much, and he is about to be evicted.
But then he meets Libby’s new boyfriend, the handsome, charming, and wealthy Whit (Hank Azaria), a championship runner who is about to compete in a marathon. And for the first time, a small idea of achieving something great comes into his head — Dennis decides to train for the marathon — in three weeks. Montage alert.
Schwimmer’s sitcom sensibilities are evident in the timing of repartee and gags and Pegg’s contributions to the script are evident in some of the film’s better lines. But it never seems sure whether it is trying to be a mainstream romantic comedy or trying to simultaneously salute and subvert the genre as Pegg did so expertly in Shaun of the Dead, promoted as the first ever zom-rom-com (zombie romantic comedy), and Hot Fuzz an affectionate (if very violent) spoof of buddy cop films. Though there is some gross-out humor, this one is a very conventional Hollywood movie, a rom-com without the zom. Unfortunately, it is not a very good one.
An established sitcom can do a lot in under half an hour because it can take for granted that we know and care about the characters. The weakest moments in this film come from our inability to connect to the characters because they are not very interesting or likable. For the last half of the movie to work, we have to be on Dennis’ side; we have to be as committed to his winning Libby back as he is. But Schwimmer seems uncertain about whether we are supposed to like Dennis — or Whit. This kind of ambiguity can work when you have nine years before Ross and Rachel finally figure out that they are destined for each other, but in a movie we have to feel that we know who these people are and believe in them. It is always a bad sign when a movie tries to find humor in a funny ethnic name. There is a scene with a blister that is just disgusting. And it is bad enough to try to make a saggy naked butt funny one time; we have to be…exposed to it twice. A sitcom also benefits from its brevity. Schwimmer does not know how to sustain our interest — this movie runs out of steam long before the finish line.
Parents should know that this movie pushes the edge of the PG-13 in every category with very crude and strong language and sexual references, some brief nudity and extended implied nudity and comic but graphic (and disgusting) violence and injuries. Characters drink and smoke. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of strong inter-racial relationships.
Families who see this movie should talk about Mr. G’s comment that Dennis thought he was not good enough for Libby.
Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Pegg’s Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (both comedies but very violent) and