Returning this week in How to Lose Friends And Alienate People, Pegg, riding high on his popularity, plays the pretentious tit Sidney Young who manages to get a job at a prestigious New York magazine. It’s like The Devil Wears Prada but with transvestites!
With a recent surge of great comedies, this effort is disappointingly neither consistently hilarious or has anything new to say. Pegg is a likeable lead but presents the character as a more of a loveable idiot who never really irritates, even those within the film. His characters charm instantly sets you into a light hearted predictable romp while although entertaining in its own way, is also somewhat a letdown.
Underneath it all is a standard romantic comedy with delusions of grandeur, which is fitting given the story. Sidney enters his new job making mistake after mistake as he tries to go against the grain and attract the attention of his new boss Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges) and also the new Hollywood starlet Sophie Maes (Megan Fox). Meanwhile he manages to befriend his co-worker Alison (Kirsten Dunst) and get on the wrong side of one of his superior Maddox (Danny Huston).
The film works well when it looks down at the media world, who buzz around showbiz and suck up to new ‘talent’ but fails to stay focused on it long enough to gain any momentum and big laughs. As usual, models are represented as airheads and young directors are pretentious recluse types – this doesn’t stop the film milking some laughs from the old cow, though.
Heading this side is Bridges’ Clayton who runs away with some of the films best lines. He represents Sidney’s possible future and when Bridges is sharing the screen with Pegg it makes for some standout scenes and it is a shame there isn’t more of him.
Credit to the film though, the actors all give good performances and surprisingly Kirsten Dunst, who was one villainous kidnap on the wrong side of annoying, manages to come across sweet and charming as Sidney’s love interest. Some of the characters verge on the wrong side of cliché (Dunst is the only one who can see Sidney for who he really is. Asshole boyfriend alert!), but these are little niggles.
The laughs are varied from your usual physical pratfalls to fish out of water scenarios and also some more raunchy scenes. When the film turns to witty banter, though, is where the film stands out – if it wasn’t aiming for such a broad audience, the film would have the potential to become a great comedy. The latter half of the film becomes more serious with its attention firmly on Sidney reluctantly conforming and compromising his values, in turn making a deal with the devil in the form of Gillian Anderson‘s conceited pile of breasts so he can get a chance with the sexual weapon Megan Fox.
Things all end for the better as you can imagine but without the true bite of any message against the industry, certain characters’ motivations for their actions remain vague. The film aims to provide something for everyone and although it certainly isn’t the funniest film this year, it manages to be a sweet story that again puts Pegg out there as one of the funniest actors around today. A sharper, edgier story may be buried underneath but it remains a fluffy enjoyable evening at the multiplex.
[Story by David Scarborough]