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How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

Of course for the film Vanity Fair has been thinly disguised as Sharp's Magazine . Sharp 's is run by Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges) who's mid-life crisis prompts him to hire Sidney Young (Simon Pegg) from the upstart rag he runs called Post Modern Review . There's something about Young's cheeky attitude that reminds Harding of himself in his more radical days. But Young is a disaster. On his first day at work he wears a t-shirt that proclaims "Young, dumb and full of come." He's smug, prone to faux pas, unwilling to compromise, and generally abrasive. Young insists he's arrived "not to be one of the glossy posse, I'm here to shake things up."

Jeff Bridges and Simon Pegg in How to Lose Friends and Alientate People (MGM)

Pegg is good at somehow managing to win our sympathies despite the fact that the character he's playing is an arrogant ass. He makes Young's inconsistencies somehow endearing and makes us care about his character's fate. Bridges' Harding comes across like some domesticated and corporatized version of The Dude. He tends to sit back in an oblivious haze, but occasionally lets a smirk fleetingly pass his lips. At one point he complains about a $1000 a plate meal where "all I could taste was ass; I kiss theirs and they kiss mine." The scenes between Pegg and Bridges are amusing, they are like a male version of The Devil Wears Prada . But unlike Prada, How to Lose Friends chooses to place this relationship in the background and instead focus on romance. Director Robert B. Weide and writer Peter Straughan emphasize Young's hollow pursuit of a Hollywood starlet (the vacuous but pretty Megan Fox) and his slow-to-develop affection for a smart colleague (Kirsten Dunst). But such romantic comedy is blandly predictable whereas the inner workings of a big magazine provides much more intriguing material. Weide also settles too often for gag comedy and pratfalls rather than more character driven material, which is too bad.

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (rated R for language, some graphic nudity and brief drug material) takes too few potshots at the rich and famous, and delivers too much on predictable romantic formula. Pegg is a delight and in some ways I would have preferred to see more of him as Young in his Post Modern Review days. But this will have to tide me over until Pegg and frequent collaborator Edgar Wright pair up again for another film.

Companion viewing: Shaun of the Dead, Spaced, La Dolce Vita, The Devil Wears Prada

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