October 3, 2008

‘How to Lose Friends’ May Not Even Keep Viewers

By Jeff Vice Deseret News

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People -- * 1/2 -- Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst, Megan Fox; rated R (vulgarity, profanity, violence, drugs, brief nudity, slurs)

Going into "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People," there was a belief that British comic actor Simon Pegg was "golden" -- that he one of those rare performers who automatically make everything they're in better.

However, this noxious comedy not only shoots that theory down, it completely obliterates it.

Pegg, who basically clowns his way through this mess, turns out to be one of the film's bigger irritants. Of course, that's saying a lot, because there's very little in the painfully unfunny "How to Lose Friends" that isn't irritating.

The movie is loosely based on Toby Young's cheeky memoirs, which explain how he went from being a tabloid journalist in Britain to become a successful entertainment writer in the United States.

Pegg stars as a fictionalized version of Young, only his first name is Sidney. Inexplicably, American media mogul Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges) hires Sidney to join his magazine's staff.

However, the abrasive Sidney has a hard time fitting in there. He immediately butts heads with his co-worker, Alison Olsen (Kirsten Dunst), and also with his boss, the smarmy Lawrence Maddox (Danny Huston).

He's also become obsessed with rising starlet Sophie Maes (Megan Fox). Sidney did make a bad first impression on her, but he remains convinced that she'll eventually succumb to his "charms."

Director Robert Weide (HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm") and screenwriter Peter Straughan clearly want us to like the main character. But they don't give us any reason to do so.

Worse, there's really nothing that Pegg can do with this material. He's not alone, though.

Dunst's character is a cliche, while Huston and Fox both continue to show their acting limitations. The only thing the film really has going for it is Bridges, and even he's not in it enough to make it watchable.

"How to Lose Friends & Alienate People" is rated R for crude sexual and scatological humor (references and sight gags), strong sexual language (profanity, vulgar slang and other suggestive talk), supposedly comic violence (mostly pratfalls, as well as animal violence), drug content (cocaine use and references), brief male and female nudity, and some derogatory language (slurs). Running time: 108 minutes.

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