How to Lose Friends & Alienate People
February 15, 2009

I’m a huge fan of Simon Pegg. I enjoy movies in genres I hate (zombies, action cop) just because he’s in them. He’s why I chose to watch How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, which came out only four months ago but I don’t recall ever seeing in theaters. Now I know why: it’s a boring waste of a good cast.

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People cover
How to Lose Friends & Alienate People
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Pegg plays a celebrity journalist trying to get into the good parties. He’s very annoying. The story is based on a memoir by Toby Young about his experience at Vanity Fair.

Pegg’s character obviously hates those he covers, so you wonder why he doesn’t find a job he’s better suited for. Yet he desparately wants to be a celebrity, to be part of that world, so he’s living off of disdain and the resulting self-loathing. He does stupid things that annoy those he’s supposed to be working for/with as though that will demonstrate his independence. All it shows is his immaturity. It’s only because Pegg is so likable that I got as far into the film as I did. The gross jokes and slapstick put me off, and I finally gave up before the end. I’m told the main plot becomes a predictably Hollywood romantic comedy.

Also in the movie are Megan Fox as a pretty girl; co-worker Kirsten Dunst; and Jeff Bridges as the boss editor. I found most of my enjoyment from spotting cameos. Oh, look, it’s the woman (and later the guy) from The IT Crowd. Oh, look, she was Pegg’s girlfriend in that running movie.

Special features include a press kit making-of and two commentaries. One by director Robert Weide is about shoot details; the other, with Weide and Pegg, is more anecdotal. However, Weide is telling people not to buy the Region 1 DVD (this edition). It seems that a lot of extra material, including deleted scenes, a gag reel, and video diaries, were available for use, but Fox/MGM didn’t bother. Some deleted scenes were cut from the theatrical release with the knowledge that they’d be on the DVD, and now they aren’t. All of this material will instead be on the Region 2 DVD, due out in March. It makes the commentaries particularly odd, since they make frequent reference to how the viewer will see talked-about material in the deleted scenes, which aren’t included.

14 Responses  
David Oakes writes:  

Disdain and self-loathing made only partly bearable through brief glimpses of marginally famous people?

It would seem to capture the Vanity Fair experience perfectly.

Rivkah writes:  

Not to complain, but what’s with all the movies lately? There seems to have been a barrage of movie reviews over comics this week.

Rich Johnston writes:  

You know how people can be boring saying “Read the book, it’s sooooo much better than the movie”?

How To Lose Friends is probably the greatest example of that of late. The book is fantastic. The film is pedestrian.
Try the book. The film shouldn’t spoil it for you.

Johanna writes:  

After getting out of the groove and being overcome by stress, I found movies easier to write about to ease myself back into the habit, for some reason. I have a bunch of comic reviews coming now, though.

Rich, I doubt the book would overcome one of my key problems with the material: I don’t want to spend any time with the jerk central character.

Thom writes:  

Wow. It is frustrating to see Pegg picking these roles after Hot Fuzz and Shawn of the Dead. I watched Run Fat Boy Run last week. And man, what a cliched mess, at no point did I get surprises like his prior work in HF, SotD or Spaced.

Between that and this, I want to know who is recommending these choices to Pegg.

Johanna writes:  

You can only stay a cult artist, working with only one director, for so long. You have to branch out in order to be seen as more than a one-trick pony. I’m curious to see how his work in the Star Trek remake is received.

Thom writes:  

Oh, certainly, I did not mean to suggest he should only work with Edgar Wright. And if he was merely supporting cast, I think I would be less bothered with the choices-an actor has to work, and plenty of good actors will appear in a great film, and then appear in some weak comedy later the same year and so on. I think what got me with Run Fat Boy Run, was simply that Pegg helped with the script and it still felt like a first time screen writer following all the conventional rules.

I agree, I am very curious to see him as Scotty (I really like the new Star Trek’s casting choices).

Johanna writes:  

Mmm, interesting observation. I think most of what I’ve seen him in (Shaun, Spaced, Hot Fuzz) has been very conventional in structure underneath — it’s just that the trappings are so unusual that they seem more out there.

Thom writes:  

This is true, though, I think following the conventions was part of the point of Spaced, Shaun and Hot Fuzz. They were love letters to genres of film and television. I loved listening to the commentaries on Spaced where the Americans were praising it’s superiority to American Television…and Wright, Pegg and Hynes all talked about their goal being to do a show that showcased their love for American television and movies.

Near as I could tell, Run Fat Boy Run was not meant to pay tribute to any genre of film, which might have helped it if it had. Sounds like a similar problem with HtLF&AP.

Johanna writes:  

Good analysis! I don’t think RFBR was a tribute, just a romantic comedy. And I liked it, myself. But now I really want to see Pegg/Wright’s version of the ultimate chick flick, just like Hot Fuzz was the ultimate cop actioner.

Thom writes:  

Thanks! I liked parts of Run Fat Boy Run, especially Pegg’s interaction with Dylan Moran and Harish Patel. I confess to always kind of wanting to see a romantic comedy take a sudden diversion where the hero learns that it is okay if he/she does not win the object of affection back and finds peace, and maybe a new romantic opportunity. This is kind of a silly hope, as the whole point of romantic comedies is to ultimately vindicate the lead’s desire.

But I would love to see a Wright/Pegg version of the chick flick (though some would aregue that was Shaun of the Dead). :)

Katherine F. writes:  

Wright and Pegg have said that Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz were about porting genres that are mostly associated with the US to Britain, so I’m not sure there’d be any point in them making a romantic comedy — the British film industry is awash with romantic comedies. There’s no incongruence in a romantic story taking place in London or Cornwall, whereas a bombastic action flick or a zombie invasion that happens in England is just inherently odd, and therefore humorous.

Johanna writes:  

Thom, I hope I’m not spoiling anything by saying that Enchanted did something of what you’re describing.

Katherine, that explains why they were familiar yet so fresh. Thanks!

Thom writes:  

Katherine-Good point. I had forgotten about that aspect.

You know who I really want to see tackle RomCom? Rob Zombie.


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