Remember when Simon Pegg was starring in movies about zombies and homicidal English villages? I miss those days.
Instead hes been starring in syrupy, light romantic comedies about annoyingâ€”yet somehow charmingâ€”losers. First there was Run, Fatboy, Run, which had a few good moments, and it seems that hes continuing this trend with How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.
Pegg stars as Sydney Young, a brash journalist who has spent his entire life trying to get access to the glamorous world of celebrity. He runs a snide British rag lampooning celebrities and gets his chance for the big time when his idol, Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges), hires him to work for Sharps, his high profile magazine. But when Young arrives he finds that Harding has become a self-loathing sellout, and perhaps even worse, Young will have to compromise his journalistic integrity in order to publish anything.
Oh, and theres a tacked-on, tepid romantic subplot between Pegg and Kirsten Dunst which has all the passion of a rotting fish.
Perhaps its unfair to do this, but I cant help comparing this movie to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. I knew that this would be a different type of comedy, but I still thought that this would be hilarious because of Pegg. Obviously, I was wrong.
Pegg does a fine job, but his performance is hampered by the uninspired story and Dunsts uninspired acting. Pegg is basically the poor country boy (even though he comes from London) who moves to the big city and briefly loses himself in its decadence. Its been done plenty of times before, and quite frankly, its been done better. For one thing, I find it difficult to believe that a man from London would be as star-struck about New York as he acts.
Thats not a huge problem, but what is even more irksome is that the story doesnt go anywhere. Pegg doesnt change anything at Sharps, which is where the movie seemed to be heading, and the love story between Pegg and Dunst is so forced and unbelievable that it completely ruins the supposed feel-good ending. The two actors have no chemistry and I just dont believe that they have any romantic interest in each other. Pegg has greater chemistry with Gillian Anderson (who is a much better actress than Dunst, in my never-be-humble opinion) and I would have bought them getting together much more easily than I do him and Dunst.
I could have overlooked all of those problems, though, if the movie had been funnier. Most of the jokes center on Pegg acting like a complete tool. Hes good enough to pull off the jokes, but after awhile it gets old. Again it may be unfair to compare this to Peggs previous work, but even disregarding those great flicks, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People does not stack up to slew of excellent comedies released in the past few years. Judd Apatow and Kevin Smith have proven time and again that it is possible to have a genuinely funny movie with a sweet concept at its core. Those comedies are the equivalent of a slice of tiramisu at a high-end Italian restaurant, while How to Lose Friends is the kind of soft-serve vanilla you get at a Golden Corral. The jokes are lackluster, the romance tepid, and any sense of honest humanity is nonexistent.
Really, this movie is 110 minutes of wasted talent. Simon Pegg, Jeff Bridges, and Gillian Anderson are all excellent actors and they arent given anything to do in this film. Most of the jokes are formulaic and uninspired, and the plot could have been taken from The Idiots Guide to Screenwriting. I really hope that Edgar Wright does another movie soon and Simon Pegg can go back to making quality features.
The movie was presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. There were no audio specifications listed on the screener disk, but the transfer for both the audio and visual were fine.
Audio Commentary with Director Robert Weide and Simon Pegg – Standard commentary stuff.
Audio Commentary with Director Robert Weide – Ditto.
Making of Featurette (18:37) – The director gives a lot of pretty sharp backhanded compliments to Toby Young, which is rather fun, but other than that theres not much here that makes it worth watching.
Choke preview (2:03)
Slumdog Millionaire preview (1:59)
This is pretty much a paint-by-numbers movie. It has some great talent in Jeff Bridges, Gillian Anderson, and Simon Pegg, but its not enough to keep this from being an ultimately forgettable film. Not recommended.
MGM presents How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. Directed by Robert Weide. Starring Simon Pegg, Gillian Anderson, Megan Fox, Jeff Bridges, and Kirsten Dunst. Written by Peter Straughan. Running time: 110 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: February 17, 2009. Available at Amazon.
Tags: Gillian Anderson, Jeff Bridges, Kirsten Dunst, Simon Pegg