Simon Pegg

Room on the Broom (2012)

How many award winning actors does it take to tell a children’s story? Seven in the case of Room on the Broom, an Academy Award nominated short based on the picture book by Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler. The film features the voice talents of great character actors, including Timothy Spall and Sally Hawkins with Simon Pegg narrating.

It’s tale about a witch, her broom, and her animal friends that take up all the room on her broom and is an endearing one for small children. Big people will be equally delighted. The witch (Gillian Anderson) sets off with her cat (Rob Brydon), and it, being very cat-like, is perfectly content to have the human all to himself. So when a few mishaps take the duo off course and lead them to meet new traveling companions, Cat is none too pleased. Dog (Martin Clunes), Bird (Hawkins), and Frog (David Walliams) are all eager to join the benevolent witch on her adventure, even if it means squeezing onto her compact broom.

The story is easy for even very small children to follow, and the stop-motion animation is simple without being plain. Still, it’s not visually arresting, and I wished it had a more distinct animation style. But the movie is so pure that I can appreciate it for what it does bring, and that is a measure of quietness and gentleness. Kids used to a constant fireworks of color and sound may be bored, but I loved the sparsity of storytelling. Besides stripped down visuals, there’s minimal dialogue – so much for the award-winning voice cast, but this only serves to emphasize the characters’ actions. Children will not easily overlook the genial witch and her generous heart nor will they fail to pick up on how the bickering animals overcome their differences to defeat the dragon, and the witch’s impossibly small broom. There’s nothing ostentatious about this little movie, and that’s what makes it so enjoyable.

Released: 2012
Prod: Martin Pope, Michael Rose
Dir: Max Lang, Jan Lachauer
Writer: Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler
Cast: Simon Pegg, Gillian Anderson, Rob Brydon, Timothy Spall, Martin Clunes, Sally Hawkins, David Walliams
Time: 27 min
Lang: English
Country: United Kingdom
Reviewed: 2018

Run Fatboy Run

run fatboy run

I’m not sure why anyone would run away from Thandie Newton, but that’s exactly what Dennis (Simon Pegg) does on his wedding day. Five years after leaving the pregnant Libby (Newton) at the altar, he’s still treading water as a security guard at a women’s clothing store. Meanwhile, she’s let him back into her life, mostly because of their son Jake (Matthew Fenton), but she hasn’t quite forgiven him. Still, things are looking better for her; she owns a successful boutique bakery and is spending more time with her new boyfriend, Whit (Hank Azaria).

His intrusion into their lives jerks Dennis from complacency as he realizes he is in danger of losing Libby again. An everyday schlub who’s mediocre at best when it comes to his job, and life, he knows he doesn’t measure up to Libby’s new man. Whit, by contrast, is one of those guys with a cushy office in the Gherkin and who goes to spin class during his lunch break. Or as Libby points out, he’s a good man because he runs marathons for charity. Realizing that his pride and the woman he loves are at stake, Dennis decides to enter a marathon and prove that he’s a changed man. If he can’t win back Libby, at least he can win back her respect.

There’s nothing extraordinary about this run-of-the-mill romcom script from Michael Ian Black and Pegg, and those expecting the sharp humor of Pegg’s Cornetto trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End) will be left wanting. Most of the jokes can be spotted a mile or two away as the narrative jogs steadily towards its predictable finish. Dennis’s hefty landlord (Harish Patel) and his best friend (Dylan Moran), who is also Libby’s gambling, pants-less cousin, cheer from the sidelines and offer some comic relief while Whit passively aggressively emasculates Dennis at every turn.

The acting ensemble gives the tired script a strong push though and makes the film pleasant if average. Pegg, always a welcome presence, gives heart to even his wackiest roles with his uncanny ability to get serious. He does the same here, showing that behind Dennis’s sluggish, irresponsible persona, there is much love and regret. Azaria also attacks his part with smug gusto, making Whit’s comeuppance all the more satisfying. Caught in the middle, Newton has less to work with but is radiant nonetheless. It’s no wonder she’s got two guys going the distance for her.

Released: 2007
Prod: Sarah Curtis, Robert Jones
Dir: David Schwimmer
Writer: Michael Ian Black, Simon Pegg
Cast: Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton, Hank Azaria, Dylan Moran, Harish Patel, India de Beaufort, Matthew Fenton, Simon Day, Ruth Sheen, Peter Serafinowitz, Stephen Merchant, David Walliams
Time: 100 min
Lang: English
Country: United Kingdom
Reviewed: 2015