As If I Needed Lessons

How To Lose Friends and Alienate People is the second movie in as many weeks that seems to illustrate the rather large indifference of the American masses to British stars. Last week’s delightful Ghost Town showed we don’t care much about Ricky Gervais, while this week’s similarly delightful How To Lose Friends and Alien Poeple indicates we don’t give a rat’s ass about Simon Pegg. It reminds me a bit of the complete and utter rejection of the perfectly delightful Aardman studio movie Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit, as well as the later, less delightful but still pretty good Flushed Away.

Maybe Troop is right about “perforated abalones” or whatever he calls the Brits.

I, on the other hand, think it’s a shame. While this is a pretty by-the-numbers romantic comedy (as was Ghost Town), it’s a solid one and provides plenty of laughs.

The story concerns trashy Pegg being wooed away from his trashy little celebrity-hit-rag by magazine mogul Jeff Bridges (as the anti-Dude!) to work at his trashy BIG celebrity-kiss-ass-rag. There he meets nice girl Kirsten Dunst, a pre-op transsexual, and super-hot Megan Fox, channelling a sort of Marilyn-Monroe-meets-Bette-Davis type. He lusts after Fox (I mean, of course) but falls in love with Dunst (again, of course, but for different reasons). Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy pursues other girl–the story begins with Pegg in striking rang of his goal of having sex with Ms. Fox, and I don’t need to tell you how that turns out–and loses his soul in the process, but again, I don’t need to tell you how that turns out, either.

As I said, by-the-numbers but less gross than a lot of modern comedies, with more slapstick, and with a curious message–or so it seemed to me: That it’s better to be a celebrity-mocking journalistc parasite than to be a celebrity-ass-kissing-journalistic parasite.

Isn’t that like saying it’s better to be typhus than The Plague?

The cast is absolutely pitch perfect. Bridges is entirely credible as a guy who both hates and, at some level, longs for the person he used to be. Pegg has the right combination of likability and unlikability–he’s really quite a good actor, showing range by being a completely different person than he was in Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. Kirsten Dunst is almost too believable as the girl who trades in her dreams for a steady paycheck and a creepy boyfriend. Danny Huston, by the way, is the creepy boyfriend/sleazeball/obstacle to all of Pegg’s dreams, and he’s got the smarmy thing down pat. Gillian Anderson is excellent as the soulless PR agent bending everyone to her will.

Megan Fox is eerily dead-on as the flavor-of-the-month actress. She’s completely superficial and at turns siren, vulnerable girl, airhead and cruel vixen. (Her award-winning movie role is hysterical, too. Stay through the credits, because they do a full trailer.) You really don’t end up knowing much about her–she’s completely insubstantial, really–which is in its own way perfect for the story.

All the little roles seem to have been filled with care, as well. Miriam Margoyles plays the Polish (Russian?) tenement manager, Bill Paterson shows up as Pegg’s father, Max Minghella is the over-rated wunderkind director, Diana Kent plays the washed up ‘70s actress (though is she really old enough?), and Thandie Newton does a turn as herself, being chatted up by Pegg in one of his more charming disguises.

And, hey, you got your full-frontal male nudity, sorta, in the form of nude model Charlotte Devaney, who plays a pre-op transexual stripper. I don’t really believe it myself, as she lacked any outward male characteristics whatsoever and I don’t think Playboy and Hustler feature TSes, but since about 12% of my hits are for full frontal male nudity, I thought I’d throw you guys a bone. (Heh.)

A solid flick with lots of laughs from humor both broad and subtle, but it ain’t gettin’ no love in terms of distribution and box office.

Damned abalones.

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