Toby Young's 2001 book 'How to Lose Friends and Alienate People' was a success upon its initial release as it was one of the first in what has now become an endless parade of Hollywood tell-alls by journalists and self-important reality stars. Young came across as an obnoxious, pompous eejit, brimming with delusions beyond his experience. The book was rude yet uncomfortably funny, especially in the first half as it delivered shocking behind-the-red-carpet exposés, before becoming self-indulgent and head scratchingly moralistic. To translate this to the big screen now was not only a big ask but a big why.
In the film Pegg plays UK writer Sidney Young, who produces a satirical periodical before getting his big break at an American magazine. Renowned for his cutting pieces on all things celebrity, he struggles to fit in at the fluff-filled publication. Unfortunately the remainder of the plot is predictable from the second he arrives in New York and sits on a bar stool beside the unusually cast Kirsten Dunst (see pic).
The main focus of both the book and the film is the fickle world of celebrity, an outdated theme that has been done to death. In the last year alone films such as 'The Dark Knight' and 'Tropic Thunder' have shown variations on the same theme - not to mention the numerous reality TV shows that have also exposed this superficial world for what it is.
Ever since the success of Ricky Gervais reinventing the bumbling comedy character as a cringey foot-in-mouth hole-digger, comedy films have followed suit. While Pegg fits in easily at the Gervais table, you would expect more from director Robert B Weide, the series producer/director of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'.
Pegg is the only thing the film has going for it - he manages to make a smart ass watchable. Just as he has been in his recent outings, 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Hot Fuzz', Pegg is very likeable. However, therein lies the rub. The original version of the character isn't and that’s what worked. The real-life Young not only pulled back the velvet curtain on celebrities' lives, often revealing ugly truths, but he did the same with his own. It was these raw truths that turned the book into a bestseller.
The film lacks heart: there's no warm character to invest in, no food for the soul and no lesson we haven't already learnt or had rammed down our throats numerous times before.
It's not without its gags but for the main part expect the cheap, slapstick variety - teen gigglers such as exposed breasts and testicles, mostly at the expense of transsexuals. There are also plenty of hot bods to ogle, 'Transformers' Megan Fox being one, but they only serve to mirror the plot and lack the brain matter to make it work.
While it's exciting to see Jeff Bridges in one of the leading roles as Pegg's boss, he could have phoned it in. His reaction to the film is summed up in one scene where he sits moodily, then erupts with an impromptu guffaw before resuming his silent composure. This is disappointing from the four times Oscar nominee who has delivered greats such as 'The Last Picture Show', 'The Big Lebowski', 'The Fisher King' and recently as a good bad guy in 'Iron Man'. Here's hoping there'll be more to look forward to with some of his upcoming films: 'TR2N' with John Hurt or alongside George Clooney in 'Men Who Stare at Goats'.
Gillian Anderson and Danny Huston are convincing in their key roles spinning the media web, however they, along with welcome cameos from Thandie Newton and 'The Clinic's Chris O'Dowd, do little to ease the pain in this oddly shaped romantic comedy.
Watch cast interviews and an exclusive clip from the movie here.