Simon Pegg leads an eclectic cast of stars young and old in the off-beat comedy “How to Lose Friends & Alienate People.” The 2008 offering is currently available on Roanoke Cox Cable’s EPIX On DEMAND and Pegg fans should definitely give it a look. He plays a hack British magazine writer named Sidney Young who despises and denounces the very celebrities he wants to get close to. He’s a walking disaster best known for crashing parties and making people despise him. His infamy gets him hired by the editor of a big time New York City magazine (Jeff Bridges) where one calamity after another leaves his employment hanging by a thread.
It’s a showcase for Pegg as he almost never leaves the screen. He’s outrageous and hopeless yet always manages a charm and likeability that makes him better than those who shun him. It’s our desire to see him straighten up, fly right and get the upper hand that keeps us watching. If only he had had more creative imput, the overall result might have been better.
This movie never knows what it wants to be. It starts out as a wacky celebrity lampooning comedy that more often misfires than hits its target. About halfway through, it decides to start working a romantic-comedy angle with Sidney’s co-worker Alison (Kirsten Dunst). Even later, it works another vein with Sidney sacrificing his pride and principles for fortune and fame. There are just as many other story elements, such as Sidney meeting an aging actress that no one else pays attention to, that offer some possibilities but never go anywhere.
There are some genuinely funny moments, the most devastatingly so being Sidney’s attempt to make friends with a little dog. There are also some wonderfully quirky though brief characters such as a faith healing dentist (Andy Lucas) Sidney encounters. But overall the talented cast, including Gillian Anderson, Danny Huston and host of cameos, needed a more focused script to work with.