Simon Pegg nestles in near the top of my "Funniest British Blokes" paradigm and given his foray into movies has quickly risen to the top of the comedic cream. It's a shame in some ways because Spaced was one of the first in a small list of cult comedies that capture me in the way a dopey moth flies hopelessly toward incandescent light. For some unknown reason it is often the lack of anybody else laughing that I find so appealing. This kind of show is usually offered up by a tentative BBC3 at midnight as a tabernacle for an experimental audience, The Mighty Boosh, Spaced, and Flight of the Conchordes are all examples of the kind of low budget cult comedies that the BBC try to show without drawing to much attention to themselves.
I am telling you all of this frivolous information so that you can begin to gain an idea of how I felt when Pegg went mainstream, disappointed at first, but reluctantly happy at the same time, for one of my comedy pseudo-children had taken flight. Luckily the quality of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz was undeniable and all but the most humourless critics had to laugh at the timing and sharpness of Pegg's performances.
However, when I first see the premise of How to lose friends it did not interest me, the idea seemed dull and self-serving. Fearing the worst, I could envisage the clichéd headline from 'The Guardian's prep schooled entertainment journalist: "Pegg seemed so desperate to isolate himself from the Hollywood A-List that he has fallen into the all too familiar trap and cemented himself as one of them." (ALTERNATIVELY you could have had a classic headline from 'The Sun's cockney wide boy 'journo': "ICE COLD PEGG MISSES FROST" or other such dramatic & sweeping statements….."Pegless - Simon is S**T!!")
Anyway, I have diverged, I didn't particularly go into the cinema with much hope for this film to condense the paragraph above and to be perfectly honest I really couldn't be bothered to watch it. The start of the film sets the scene in the future and unless you share your neural functions with a polliwog then it is obvious to see that this is where the writers will revert to come the end of the film….nothing new and nothing shocking here. What is shocking is the way Pegg manages to pull an ordinary film out of the fires of mediocrity.
The character he portrays is a middle aged journalist that runs a disjointed and manic magazine called 'Snipe' in this he reviews the Hollywood A-list and takes pot shots at its underbelly. The magazine is effectively bankrupt and scoops are hard to come by because Sidney Young (Pegg's character) is black listed and cannot attend the celebrities known hot spots. Trying to get into these events provides some droll entertainment but the film really fires into life when Sidney gets his "lucky" break and makes it to the Utopia of New York working for a huge, yet manufactured magazine, from the moment he arrives Sidney is an outcast and the New York public are not shy to show it, not that Sid does anything to help himself; It is here that the real comedy lies. Dancing like a hyperactive spaniel, being generally ignorant and obnoxious and creating physical revulsion in everyone he meets is priceless.
An example of this is hacking up a huge lump of chewed up burger onto the Boss' wife's back, completely fantastic, showing that the comedic timing and poise that Pegg has is second only to some of the funniest moments in Blackadder. After laughing so hard I physically had to stop and draw breath the film carried on hitting the little dirty spot I have on my sense of humour with sharp lines and some cracking scenes. One such involving Pegg getting off his tits at a party and shouting "ENGERLAND, ENGERLAND, ENGERLAND, ENGERLAND, EN-GER-LAAAaaaAAND" while hurling abuse at Orlando Bloom because he refuses to join in…..hey, I know it's cheap humour but even Einstein enjoyed a good fart joke.
Sidney tries to alienate himself from this world of sycophantic hypocrisy, but soon he finds himself falling for the person who hated him the most (Kirsten Dunst) and when she hurts his feelings he drops all of his morals. From here on I don't think I really need to carry on, it follows the same unbreakable romcom pattern of 'Boy likes girl - girl likes someone else - confusion - a little heartache - WEYHEY everything is great and as clean cut as a Vicar's underpants'
It's a shame the film follows along this path and dries up somewhat toward the end because the first two thirds is comically brilliant. The underlying plot line (although a bit insincere and very thin) is setup to remind the audience of the plasticity of stardom, unfortunately this is already a well known fact and this means that Pegg still runs the risk of trying too hard to distance himself from stardom. However all in all I think it shows what a clever comedian he is. Comparable to, and no worse than, Ricky Gervais' ghost town. If you enjoyed that then you'll enjoy this; Light, humorous and no emotional strings attached.