‘How to Lose Friends’ ‘Alienates’ Audiences

Ani Khashadoorian

Although not many people are willing to admit to this, unofficial statistics show that more than half of American subscribers to the BBC network do it for two reasons: either to appear intellectual and worldly or for those delightful accents.

Our neighbors from across the pond have offered us various entertainment treasures e throughout the years – from Duran Duran to “Harry Potter.”

The English often embed themselves into our culture with their standout performers and narratives. Their most recent offering comes in the form of the movie “How to Lose Friends & Alienate People,” based on the 2001 memoir of the same name by British journalist Toby Young (also a parody title of the best-selling book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”).

Actor Simon Pegg (“Hot Fuzz,” 2007) stars as Sidney Young, an awkward (deliberately or not is up to debate) journalist who is well-known for his outrageous escapades and outlandish behavior. Generally mocked and looked down upon, even in his own country, Young escapes to New York in a seemingly dream opportunity to work for a high-profile magazine.

The movie chronicles Young’s shaky and humorous stint as a writer for the magazine Sharps, a widely acclaimed high society publication that deals with overzealous publicists, conniving actresses and narcissistic directors.

Young starts out his first evening in the Big Apple at a bar. A chance meeting with fellow writer Alison Olsen (Kristen Dunst, “Spider-Man 3,” 2007) results in a humorous sequence that ends up with a transsexual stripper dancing with Young until 3 a.m. – only a few hours before Young begins his job at Sharps.

What follows is Young’s quest to bed the newest starlet on the scene – Sophie Mayes (Megan Fox, “Transformers,” 2007). Mayes becomes Young’s obsession as well as his rival editor Lawrence Maddox’s (Danny Huston, “30 Days of Night,” 2007).

“How to Lose Friends & Alienate People” is one of those movies that makes you laugh when you least expect it. From Young’s outfit on his first day at work (a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Young, Dumb and Full of Come”) to the same transsexual stripper showing up on Take Your Daughter To Work Day, the movie delivers the comedy.
The acting isn’t Oscar worthy from the entire cast, but passable. Pegg really carries the entire movie (as he should) and everyone else pales in comparison to him.

The soundtrack is a concoction of Duffy, Scissor Sisters, The Killers, and “La Dolce Vita” from Nino Rota. Young enjoys his music quite a bit, as evidenced by the multiple dance sequences throughout the movie (all tying in to a blossoming romance subplot).

Possibly the biggest problem with “How to Lose Friends & Alienate People” is how dull and predictable the plot quickly becomes. It starts off well, but soon falls into a story we all know too well – the cheesy romantic comedy with the egg-headed fool and the gorgeous woman he is after.

Directing by Robert B. Weide is well done – the movie is colorful in every respect and moves along quickly, even though the final half of the plot brings the entire movie down in a blazing crash vaguely reminiscent of Britney Spears’s 2007 “Gimme More” performance at the Video Music Awards.

Pegg fans will find themselves disappointed as this movie does not come close to Pegg’s previous movies. Although a fun comedy, “How to Lose Friends & Alienate People” loses its spark and ends up leaving as bland a taste as dry chicken that at first sight appeared to be very juicy.

“How to Lose Friends & Alienate People” runs at 110 minutes and is rated R for language, some graphic nudity and brief drug material.
My rating – 2 out of 5 stars.