This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
This is, I suppose, at least something of a departure for Simon Pegg, in as much as it’s not something that’s either originally conceived or hastily retrofitted as a Simon Pegg vehicle. Not that there’s anything wrong with Simon Pegg vehicles, you understand. They’re normally smooth, entertaining rides. In fact, I rather wish his latest film was more of a standard Simon Pegg vehicle, because How to Lose Friends & Alienate People often struggles to get out of first gear.
The ‘true’ for the usual cinematic values of true story (i.e. adapted out of all recognition) of Sidney (originally Toby) Young, an English celeb scandal hack who goes to work for a respected American glossy, this presents something of the usual fish out of water scenario as the Englishman struggles to fit in to his new surroundings and works out that to progress up the corporate ladder he’ll have to abandon his usual (fairly lax, admittedly) standards of journalism and churn out smoke-blowing puff-pieces. At this point I’m starting to get flashbacks to the plot of The Devil Wears Prada, so you’ll excuse me if I hastily abandon that plot thread.
The other avenue this film opens up concerns Sidney’s love life, his growing friendship with direct boss Alison (Kirsten Dunst) conflicting with his schoolboy lusting after hot young actress Sophie Maes (Megan Fox. Who can blame him?), both ambitions equally hampered by Sidney being a complete tool. Not enough of a complete tool to invoke outright hatred, you understand. This is a romantic comedy, after all. More of a tool in the cringeworthy, Ricky-Gervais-off-The-Office sort of way, just enough to make his final reel return to the light side of the force vaguely believable.
Allow me to pause for a minute to list the rest of the supporting cast. Gillian Anderson, Jeff Bridges, and Danny Huston. This film, therefore, also provokes flashbacks to Love, Actually, in as much as it seems to have taken the same maxim of glossing over a fairly mediocre script by throwing enough talent at it to distract you. It’s kinda worked in both cases, surprisingly.
How To Lose Friends & Alienate People is an entertaining enough film, and while it’s a little overlong it’s not much of a chore to sit through. What it isn’t though, is particularly funny. Most of the attempts at humour involve Pegg dancing badly, or falling over, or both. Not that I’ve any real objection to this, and it’s in large part why it’s entertaining. I just didn’t laugh at it very much, and if you’re a comedy that’s something of an issue. It pains me to say it, but I found a Paul WS Anderson film to be more fun than this. I feel dirty.