Pegg is on a Fox Hunt
I've never met Toby Young, whose memoir provides the basis for "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People", but I have watched him on various TV programmes and he comes across as initially quite arrogant but then behind the front is a nice guy. And strangely this almost split personality reflects the movie because on one level you have this witty and snarky account of a young journalist trying to make it in America but then there is a soft, romantic side too it as well. It doesn't quite work trying to balance snarky with romantic and whilst amusing seems to be trying far too hard. And that is the thing "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People" always seems to be trying to hard be it when it's going for laughs or when it's going for romance and whilst I am sure various events from Toby Young's memoirs build the basis of the movie I can't but help think that the screenwriters have taken them and tinkered with them to manic proportions.
Sidney Young (Simon Pegg - Run Fatboy Run) seems to love the world of celebrity and fame as much as he despises it, ridiculing celebrities in this magazine "Post Modern Review". But Sidney comes to the attention of Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges - Iron Man), editor of New York based Sharps magazine and sees something of his former self in the rebellious young journalist offering him a job. Young's love of practical jokes and snarky swipes at the world of celebrity puts him at odds with the conservative culture as Sharps and it seems that if he is going to get anywhere he's going to have to go against all he believes and start kissing ass, especially as he has a thing for current big starlet Sophie Maes (Megan Fox - Transformers). But is Sophie the woman for Sidney or is it co-worker Alison (Kirsten Dunst - Spider-Man 3) who finds Sidney's arrogance and attitude a little bemusing.
I've never read Toby Young's memoirs which provide the basis for "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People" but you just get a feeling that his account about his time working in America has been massively tinkered with. I say that because whilst you have this underlying story of Sidney struggling to fit in to the kiss ass culture of the magazine world it all ends up a series of over the top slapstick events. From Sidney's first night in America where he goes clubbing and tries to get it on with anything in a skirt, through to his failed attempts to impress hit starlet Sophie Maes. The end result of which is that whilst you have the storyline it becomes a case of waiting for the next set piece gag to arrive than caring whether or not Sidney makes it or not, selling himself out along the way.
The thing is that all of this slapstick is fun and so is the snarky attitude of Sidney as he rebels against the system but it doesn't really blend in with the subsequent romantic sub plot as he falls for his co-worker Alison Olsen. You have to say that for a movie which takes a swipe at the kiss ass nature of journalism and the fake ness of it all, this romance which runs to an obvious formula seems a little too ironic. Yes Sidney and Alison might make a nice couple, amusing as they initially irritate each other and run the gamete of issues before they can even admit to their feelings but it is squeezed into the story and doesn't really fit.
All of which could have been all very wrong if it wasn't for Simon Pegg who seems to have swallowed the energiser bunny and makes all the often over the top daftness entertaining. Pegg is just brilliant at the accident prone slapstick which he has to deliver time and again and has one of those faces which can make you laugh with just a slight twitch. But at the same time he makes us like Sidney despite being, well frankly a bit of a tosser and we warm to him especially when it comes to the way he feels about Alison. Talking of which Kirsten Dunst is lovely as Alison giving her a beautiful vulnerability despite being a very 2 dimensional character. And there is a wonderful irony when it comes to Megan Fox playing starlet Sophie Maes especially with her being the star of a movie about Mother Theresa.
But whilst these three deliver fun performances it is also annoying that the likes of Jeff Bridges and Gillian Anderson end up being hugely under used. Bridges seems to be restrained, handcuffed to a character than in the few scenes he gets as Clayton Harding never allows him to deliver the big laughs that Bridges is more than capable of delivering. And the same with Anderson who gets the right amount of snarky across as PR woman Eleanor Johnson but again is under used. It's as if director Robert B. Weide was so focussed on having fun with Simon Pegg as Sidney he forgot that Bridges and Anderson could have made it even funnier.
What this all boils down to is that "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People" is a very funny movie which from start to finish is non stop comedy be it some amusing slapstick or snarky dialogue. But by focussing so heavily on the comedy it seems to miss out on the satire of the situation and also feels manufactured with a very obvious romantic subplot. If it wasn't for the fact that Simon Pegg flies through the movie with an abundance of energy and a great sense of comic timing it could have ended up plainly wrong rather than fun.