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Originally published Friday, October 3, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

"How to Lose Friends & Alienate People": Physical comedy taken down a Pegg or two

"How to Lose Friends & Alienate People": Simon Pegg plays a loutish celebrity journalist who travels from Britain to cover showbiz for a highbrow New York magazine. His madcap shenanigans make the movie a disappointing wallow into the obvious.

Movie review 1.5 stars

"How to Lose Friends & Alienate People," with Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst, Jeff Bridges, Megan Fox, Gillian Anderson, Danny Huston. Directed by Robert B. Weide, from a screenplay by Peter Straughan, based on a memoir by Toby Young. 110 minutes. Rated R for language, some graphic nudity and brief drug material. Several theaters.

When a movie features two spit takes in the first 15 minutes, it's a pretty clear indicator of which way the rest of the farce will go. In "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People," Simon Pegg (the annoyingly lovable star of "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz") is the spitter, and his broad physical comedy never falls far from that level of shtick in this disappointing wallow into obviousness.

Pegg's Sydney Young is a loutish yet devoted celebrity muckraker recruited from a British scandal rag to a highbrow New York glossy modeled after Vanity Fair. Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges), the supercilious editor who brings him across the Atlantic, sics him on American society and showbiz with wacky results at every turn.

Sydney's gaffes add up to a preposterous series of madcap shenanigans, and Pegg does cut an amusing figure by maintaining an air of sincere buffoonery. But the movie wants it both ways: We're meant to feel for his ideals of journalistic integrity in the face of corruption by fame and fortune, yet we're also cued to roar at the chicanery of his cartoon antics.

Kirsten Dunst is disappointing as Sydney's earnest colleague and improbable love interest. The rest of the cast includes Gillian Anderson as an overbearing publicist and Danny Huston as an unctuous, self-important editor, but they are caricature props in the service of a weak script that relies on zany gags out of convenience.

Ted Fry,

Special to The Seattle Times

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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