Run Fatboy Run
dir. Ross Geller
Opens Fri March 28
Everyone who's seen Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, or Spaced knows that Simon Pegg is hilarious. It is scientific fact. So—scientifically speaking—it follows that Pegg is hilarious in Run Fatboy Run, even though the movie pretty much defines mediocrity.
Run Fatboy Run should be better, considering it's co-written by Pegg and comedian Michael Ian Black. (It also earns points for having "fatboy" in the title.) But the stale script feels phoned-in, and director David Schwimmer has an unfortunate penchant for maudlin bullshit and cheesy music. (Sure, I guess I can see how just sitting around and collecting Friends residuals could be boring. Doesn't mean the dude should be directing.)
Pegg plays Dennis, a shiftless layabout who panicked and left the (pregnant) love of his life, Libby (Thandie Newton), at the altar. Years later, Dennis discovers Libby's engaged to a douche (Hank Azaria) and decides to win her back. Doing so, rather inexplicably, means the out-of-shape Dennis has to complete a marathon; pratfalls, Nike product placement, and sappy life lessons ensue.
Funny throughout, Pegg lends the film some charm, as does Shaun of the Dead's Dylan Moran, as Dennis' sidekick. But overall, these are 100 minutes that'd be better spent rewatching Hot Fuzz, YouTubing Spaced, or doing pretty much doing anything that doesn't involve David Schwimmer. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Taxi to the Dark Side
dir. Alex Gibney
Opens Fri March 28
Taxi to the Dark Side—this year's Oscar winner for best documentary, and the latest in a long line of political documentaries to critique America's reprehensible policies in our War on Terror—begins with the death of an innocent Afghani man at Bagram Air Base. This man's the proverbial "man at the picnic" upon whom director Alex Gibney anchors his Powers of Ten-style indictment of the Bush administration's flagrant disregard for the Geneva Conventions at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.
Thoroughly (and rightfully) convincing in its condemnation of our country's top brass (which, to be fair, isn't that hard these days), Taxi falters only in its poorly persuasive absolution of the "just following orders" rank and file who were largely responsible for carrying out the dirty deeds. (One particularly sickening interview with Colin Powell's former chief of staff insists that the torture was "just human nature," while casually comparing a large portion of military personnel to the Marquis de Sade.) Beyond its mildly irksome "We Support Our Troops" rhetoric, however, Taxi is a powerful, well-crafted document of the moral ambiguity that has become the accepted norm in American foreign policy. ZAC PENNINGTON
dir. Ira Sachs
Opens Fri March 28
Fox Tower 10
It's a shame to waste the talents of Chris Cooper—one of the finest character actors of a generation—but Married Life certainly does. To his credit, Cooper adds some life to the proceedings, but it's impossible for anyone to rescue a film with an identity crisis as deep as this one, which seems desperately confused: "Am I noir, black comedy, drama, or '40s period piece, or what?"
Cooper plays Harry, a man stuck in a loveless marriage with Pat (Patricia Clarkson). Pat believes in sex, not love, and tells Harry so; naturally, Harry finds himself a caring mistress (Rachel McAdams, young enough to be his daughter), and shortly thereafter, decides to leave his wife.
Then things begin to get loose: Strangely, Harry decides that if he leaves, it'll devastate Pat—so he figures the right thing to do is kill her. Throw in a high-waisted-pants-wearing Pierce Brosnan, a handful of other implausibilities, and an ending that circles pointlessly back to nowhere, and Married Life turns out to be a real mess. It's as if the script was two-thirds done and, without an ending in mind, the writers got offered a free trip to Bermuda and said, "Ahh fuck it. Close enough. Let's go." ANDREW R. TONRY