Monday, August 17, 2009

Movie Log: How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

For some reason, I thought How to Lose Friends & Alienate People was a Run Fatboy Run-level Simon Pegg vehicle, so I didn't rush to see it, and came in with very low expectations. But it's actually pretty good -- oh, it's no Hot Fuzz; I'll admit, but it's funny a lot of the time, and the "only a non-elite life is worth living" message doesn't become dull and blunt until near the obvious end -- so I was happily surprised.

It's based on a memoir by Toby Young -- apparently, quite loosely based, since Young crawled back to England at the end of his adventure, which the Pegg character does not -- and is of the time-honored "young man from the sticks comes to the Big City, is tempted by its decadent charms (and its even more decadent women) but eventually chooses the path of righteousness and a Good Woman" formula, with Megan Fox as the bad girl (a dumb-as-rocks up-and-coming movie star) and Kirsten Dunst as the good girl (Pegg's colleague and eventual boss).

Pegg is the publisher and editor of a scurrilous, low-rent London satire magazine when Jeff Bridges (playing not-Graydon Carter and running not-Vanity Fair) drags him to NYC and gives him a lucrative contract for what are really very unlikely and mostly unexplained reasons. Pegg takes a while to adjust to kissing celebrity ass rather than kicking it, but eventually he succumbs to the lures of the fast life.

How to Lose Friends is probably annoying and tedious to those who have actually read Young's memoir; I haven't, so I found it a serviceable comedy along very obvious lines. It resolutely stays as far away from new ground as it possibly can, but it's pleasant enough as it goes along, and Pegg's character is a lot of fun as long as he keeps his British rough edges (which isn't nearly long enough). Dunst is cute and lovable; Fox is scorching and yet clueless; and Bridges good as the grumpy soft-living boss whom Pegg, in the end, can't follow. It's not nearly as smart and interesting a movie as it should have been, but it's not a disaster, just a disappointment.

I may have to read the book now.

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