DVD Review: How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
Release Date: February 17, 2009
· Robert Weide
· Simon Pegg
· Megan Fox
· Gillian Anderson
· Kirsten Dunst
· Jeff Bridges
by Alex Keen
Published: March 17, 2009
"How To Lose Friends and Alienate People" is not a DVD worth spending an evening with. This adaptation casts Simon Pegg as an unknown English journalist that graduates to the big time. He gets sucked into the world of tabloid celebrity journalism - hates the pretentiousness of it all - and eventually sells his soul to fit in. Along the way he manages to flirt with Kirsten Dunst, gather sage advice from Jeff Bridges, and gawk at Megan Fox. Unfortunately for all of us, none of these actors can save this movie from failing to deliver a fun or unique experience.
The ultimate failure of this movie rests on the simple fact that it is is incredibly dull. Although there are a few action moments, comedy moments, and action-comedy moments, none successfully connect with one another. Instead, the movie winds up feeling like a series of set pieces glued together by common characters and splicing tape. It feels like a collection of greatest hits from a not so great first novel.
In the acting department none survive this ho-hum flick with their credentials intact. For Simon Pegg, this movie represents his first major starring role lacking his signature spark. Unlike his work in "Shaun of the Dead", "Hot Fuzz", and "Run Fatboy Run", here Pegg comes across like an actor trying to be funny rather than a smart comedian molding a funny character. This would have been the perfect role for a non-comedic actor like Hugh Jackman to slip into because it doesn't depend on the actor being very funny. Unfortunately for Pegg, this is exactly the kind of role that makes the smart comedian look uncomfortable doing paint-by-numbers gags and bits. Pegg is stuck looking like a pedestrian talent stuck in a B-grade comedy that is bound to play on Comedy Central at 10am.
None of his co-stars wind up in the clear either. Dunst isn't given much to do except to wait for Pegg's character to have an epiphany. Amidst all of that waiting she never expands her character enough to appear remotely intriguing or complex. Meanwhile, Gillian Anderson is stuck with a one-note character that never has time for intrigue or complexity. Her casting here is most unfortunate because she's the star here most in need of a career boost. Had she been used correctly she could have easily lifted this whole movie up a notch higher.
The other two well-known performers that can't save this flick are Megan Fox and Jeff Bridges. In the case of Fox, it is incredibly difficult to determine if she's an actress or a woman allowing herself to be filmed. Since she has yet to show her range, it is impossible to gauge how good (or bad) she really is. For the most part she's in the movie as eye candy.
Finally, the smallest star performance is that of Jeff Bridges. Bridges represents the character that once was like Pegg but has since become a unique kind of corporate rebel. He's cool in the corporate world but still winds up playing by the rules when the time comes. Bridges performance appears to be the most disjointed of the lot. The personality of his character is so all-over the map that it looks like there wasn't a clear vision for what the character was to the story. The character was in the book but never fleshed out evenly in the screenplay.
All of my issues with the acting stem from the composition of the movie. Overall, there were probably good to above average performances on set. However, either in the editing suite, in the testing phase, or in the direction something went completely wrong. While there is no mention of studio difficulty on the commentaries, the delayed release of this film indicates to me that there was probably a mess of tinkering that might have royally screwed this movie.
I can't recommend this movie to people because it will squander any positive feelings they might have for Simon Pegg. For such an amazing talent, this movie is painful speed bump that should be forgotten as soon as possible.
Notes on special features - there is an interesting commentary from Pegg & Robert Weide (the Director). They appeared to actually like the movie... and the track is interesting even if it isn't super funny. There is also a second director's commentary that. Although he repeats some of the same stories, the director's words are interesting because he mentions a bunch of things he had hoped tore-shoot , were shot with problems, or had to be cut due to time. And most interesting was he constant mention of deleted scenes that he says are on the DVD but don't actually appear on this version of the DVD. Apparently what he expected to make it onto this DVD never materialized.