Top critical review
Fun in spite of it all...
on 20 March 2017
Man, this film really is by the numbers - predictable, clichéd, hackneyed, stereotypical, and above all contrived, in both story and characters. But oddly enough I still enjoy it. Just enough. The cast and fairly clever script and moments breathe enough life and enjoyment into this loser/underdog story.
But the worst offense commited here must surely be the utterly contrived and unbelievable transformation of one of the key characters, played by Hank Azaria. Throughout almost the entire film he plays the perfect guy and catch - polite, courteous, well mannered, handsome, physically fit, successful, and wealthy. Clearly, there was absolutely no way that the audience could believe that a lovable loser (played by Simon Pegg), could possibly win back his ex-fiancé/mother of his child (whom 6 years earlier he jilted at the alter whilst pregnant) by simply running/competing in a charity marathon. After all, Mister Perfect-Catch (who at this point is engaged to the woman Pegg is attempting to win back), is also running in the same charity marathon as Pegg, and is far more likely to finish it, because unlike Pegg, he is physically fit and runs in these marathons all the time. So even if Pegg does finish the marathon - which is in serious doubt due to his less than active lifestyle, and indicated by the private bets that are mostly going against him - then he's still got nothing over Mister Perfect-Catch who is almost certainly going to finish the race with relative ease. So how do the filmmakers get around this problem? By throwing in the old deus ex machina trick of turning Mister Perfect into Mister Imperfect, thus making Our Lovable Loser the more eligible option to our much coveted Lady.
This is achieved in the final act by showing Mister Perfect (come-Mister-Imperfect), first verbally taunting/putting down Our Lovable Loser at the beginning of the marathon. But this is only to sow the seeds of dislike in the audience's eyes, but not Our Coveted Ladies, since she isn't there to witness these unpleasant remarks. Then we have the pierce de resistance act of Mister Perfect wilfully tripping up Our Lovable Loser, injuring them both. Then having Mister Perfect quit the race, taken to hospital, only to be found to have no real injury whatsoever besides an epidermal graze, screaming "wimp" to Our Coveted Lady. Then having him tell Our Coveted Lady that Our Lovable Loser tripped him, only to be subsequently found out to be lying by (convenient) recorded news footage clearly showing Mister Perfect tripping up Our Lovable Loser, not the other way around. And to top it all off, we have Mister Perfect blowing his top and admonishing (with an expletive insult) Our Coveted Ladies/Our Lovable Loser's young boy, in response to him mucking around with the hospital bed incliner/recliner control, and Our Coveted Lady (curiously) not having enough respect for her fiancé to tell the boy to stop with this annoying behaviour. Thus Mister Perfect swiftly completes (within the space of about 20 minutes) his transformation into Mister Imperfect, paving the way for Our Lovable Loser to win his Ex back.
Meanwhile, Our Lovable Loser doggedly continues the marathon, slowly but surely, until he eventually completes the remaining 11 miles (or something like that) on a broken ankle, no less. Having observed this 'never say die' attitude via the live news broadcast on the TV (because this sort of thing tends to be covered as 'Breaking News' in real life), and in light of the newly revealed Mister Imperfect's recent behaviour, Our Coveted Lady divorces her engagement with him, leaves him in the hotel room, and rushes off with her young boy to meet Our Lovable Loser at the finish line and spur him on for the last 70 feet. And everyone (except Mister Imperfect and the people who bet against Our Lovable Loser) live happily ever after. The end.
Now, I can accept and readily believe that people aren't always what they seem. And that people can "show their true colours", as Mister Not-So-Perfect-As-He-First-Appeared, did. Although this only traditionally happens under certain circumstances, like when someone has something to gain by changing tack all of a sudden. But in the case of this film, Mister Perfect had absolutely nothing to gain, and in fact everything to lose, by his actions in the third act of this story, making it in my experience probably the most blatantly contrived plot ending to a story I've ever witnessed in movie making history. But despite all this nonsense, it's an fairly fun amd funny ride all the same. 3/5*