Lowdown: A would be celebrity discovers what is really important.
The virtues of Simon Pegg have been discussed and re-discussed in this blog, most recently with Run Fatboy Run. Whatever misgivings I have had with Fatboy, I still remember Pegg favorably, and when given the choice of a free rental it was his latest release that I picked - How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (or HTLF for short).
Given it’s a British production, HTLF starts off in London as we are introduced to Pegg: a would be celebrity reporter that runs an amateurish magazine. In his efforts to be in the know, Pegg does a complete fool of himself to invade celebrity parties (where he meets true celebrities, amongst others; indeed, HTLF features many a famous cameo). A fool maybe, but a successful fool: His adventures earn him a job at the Numero Uno celebrity magazine in the world, operating out there in New York (where the majority of the film takes place despite its British-ness) and run by Jeff Bridges. Bridges, playing a rather flat character here, apparently sees his old self in Peg.
Pegg doesn’t really know what to do with himself as he starts at his new job in his new city and his very old apartment. On one hand, he can write articles that kiss stars’ asses in order to go up the food chain, but his ego and his conscious won’t let him do so despite the promise of potentially scoring with big time hot celebrities (Megan Fox); on the other, he gets to know a woman working on his team that is down to earth, decent and offers some perceived depth (Kirsten Dunst). Which way would Pegg go?
Given the nature of HTLF, the way things would go becomes very obvious. This is a predictable film that tries to work by flattering its viewers: No, says HTLF, those hot shot celebrities are not only no better than you, they are complete fools; you, ordinary people, are the true gems of this world. Naturally, the film does so by casting the ex-model Dunst to the role of the ordinary person that sets Pegg on the right track. Irony aside, I do have to say that the most positive thing I can say about HTLF is that I have never seen Dunst look so good on the screen before; by virtue of the fact she’s meant to look ordinary she comes out awesome.
Predictability aside, HTLF does entertain as a comedy. The problem is, it’s rather astray with its direction; you watch it and you don’t know whether it’s a vulgar comedy, a wise satire about our worship of celebrities, or your standard issue romantic comedy. It tries for all three and obviously fails in its quest to reach for the stars (pun intended): The vulgar jokes are a stupid turn off, the wise satire element never gets explored to anything deeper than a dew millimeters, and the romantic comedy part deteriorates into yet another stupid game of “she is the true one for me” (and any film going for that crap deserves to be puked upon).
Ultimately, HTLF fails at its core: it tries to mock the shallowness of the celebrity core, but it joins forces with the mundane. Again, Simon Pegg has sold his soul, or at least a part of it.
While everyone at the magazine is celebrating the 4th of July in some elaborate outdoor picnic, a shorts/sandals/socks wearing Pegg climbs on top of the orchestra and shouts “England! England!”
This scene uses every bad English cliché in the book other than crooked teeth. It’s simply not funny, and serves mainly in alienating the viewer from Pegg’s character. The result is a hard time for HTLF as its running the show with a main character you, the viewer, feel indifferent to.
Technical assessment: A pretty mundane Blu-ray.
Overall: I guess HTLF is an effective way to pass the time, dwelling in the realm between 2.5 and 3 stars out of 5.