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  •  REVIEW: HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS & ALIENATE PEOPLE

    How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

    Pegg bored

    British funny man Simon Pegg continues his downwards spiral with the lame, "'Devil Wears Prada"-styled "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People."

    By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
    Offoffoff.com

    It must be a lot easier to star in a bad comedy than to write a good one.

      
    HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS & ALIENATE PEOPLE
    Directed by: Robert B. Weide.
    Produced by: Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley.
    Written by: Peter Straughan.
    Adapted from How to Lose Friends & Alienate People by: Toby Young.
    Cast: Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst, Megan Fox, Danny Huston, Gillian Anderson, Jeff Bridges, Miriam Margolyes, Max Minghella, Thandie Newton.
    Cinematography: Oliver Stapleton.
    Edited by: David Freeman.
    Music by: David Arnold.
    Production design by: John Beard.
    Art direction by: Ray Chan, Anthony Gasparro.
    Costumes by: Annie Hardinge.

    Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    That's what Simon Pegg has opted to do in "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People," a film that bears the prophetic tagline "Brace yourself, America." It's Simon Pegg Gone Hollywood, or The Great Pegg Sell-Out of 2008, a film that confirms what his previous picture "Run, Fatboy, Run" woefully hinted at, that you can lead a Pegg across water but that relocation alone doesn't necessarily keep him funny.

    Pegg was brilliant both in front of and (as co-writer) behind the camera in his first two homegrown forays, the sublime "Shaun of the Dead" and the buddy cop comedy "Hot Fuzz." But then the lure of America beckoned... Pegg managed, albeit barely, to rise above "'Fatboy'"'s material but he's unable to do so here, largely because the material is so obvious, so clichéd.

    How to Lose Friends & Alienate People  
    Cue the opening first-person narration, with its "no, that good-looking bloke's not me. That's me," and the inevitable "but things haven't always been this way..." flashback. Then there's the "rube in the Big Apple" sequence that makes absolutely no sense given that Pegg's character is a British journalist of some years who's no doubt actually been in the West End let alone heard of it. And the cute little animal that comes to a sticky end? A prerequisite of these pictures, apparently. And the prostitute that turns out to be a man? Ditto.

      
      Try as he might, Pegg is unable to rise about the obvious and clichéd material.
      
    And let's not forget the montage of West Coast sights and sounds — LAX (?), Sepulveda Blvd. (??), a Hyatt hotel (???) — that craps out after half a dozen quick-cut images, like they ran out of ideas, money, or both midway through the shoot.

    Although based on the memoirs of one Toby Young and his scandal-sheet experiences at "Vanity Fair" magazine, "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People" borrows generously and shamelessly from other cultural fish-out-of-water comedies, the kind in which our hapless protagonist (here a "Post Modern Review"-er named Sydney) dreams of the good life only to realize, once he secures it, that the life he could have had all along offers a great deal more.

    How to Lose Friends & Alienate People  
    HTLF&IP is not only poorly written but amateurishly directed (the first thing director Robert Weide should have done was fire Peter Straughan the screenwriter for producing what is, in the words of Jeff Bridges's "'Devil Wears Prada"-styled publishing mogul Clayton Harding, "simply not good enough"). Directing 26 episodes of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" clearly wasn't experience enough to transition Weide to the motion picture world — the film is jaw-droppingly banal on almost every level, highlighted by underwritten characters (like Kirsten Dunst's under-impressed editor) and acting of the stiffest kind (Danny Huston, playing her superior, is particularly guilty of woodenness). In fact, "Transformers"' Megan Fox, as a vapid, up-and-coming starlet, is one of the few performers who doesn't embarrass herself.

      
      Directing 26 episodes of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" clearly wasn't experience enough to transition first-time feature director Robert Weide to the motion picture world.
      
    Pegg tries his best of course, with a pig, in a wig, I hope they paid him a lot for this gig, but it's a losing battle. Judging from his recent choice of projects this likeable fool has yet to win friends or influence the right people in Tinseltown. Perhaps someone should let him in on the secret of succeeding in the business without really trying.

    OCTOBER 19, 2008
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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