Pegg plays Sidney Young (an interpretation of the book's real-life author Toby Young), the creator of the supposedly scathing British tabloid the Post-Modern Review. One of his former idols is Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges, sporting an incredible wig), who has gone on to be the editor-in-chief of Sharps Magazine in New York City, where Sidney feels he's lost his bite. After Sidney ruins one of Clayton's fancy parties by crashing it with a pig in tow, Clayton gives Sidney a call and offers him a job at Sharps. Seeing an opportunity to bring some cutting criticism back into Clayton's work, Sidney accepts, flying to the States to start cracking heads. Instead, however, he finds himself under the watchful eye of co-worker Alison Olson (Dunst), whose current assignment seems to be keeping Sidney in check.
The main problem is the film's fear of being truly caustic, despite it literally being Sidney's goal to do so. It's clear that Weide and screenwriter Peter Straughan worry (with good reason, admittedly) that giving Sidney the teeth to tear into someone could also make him an unlikable jackass, but if there's anyone in the world who could have balanced the anarchic with the amicable it's Simon Pegg. Instead, Sidney bluntly nags an actor about their sexual orientation, and the joke falls flat beacuse not only is the line of questioning more unwise than outrageous, we've got no bearing on the "actor" in question. A real-life recognizable face might have packed a stronger punch. Similarly, while Max Minghella's pretentious, ego-trip director has considerably more screentime, the film never aims below-the-belt. The character is merely dazed and distant, when it's a perfect chance to stick it to both abstract artistes and David-O.-Russell-style directorial explosions.
The remaining plot tracks the love-hate Alison and Sidney's love hate-relationship, which reeks of a Hollywood book-to-film adaptation. Could these two actually have something in common? Boy, I wonder! And yet there's Pegg and Dunst, generating crackling romantic and comedic chemistry, both exceptionally charismatic and appealing from the first frame to the last. Props for Pegg are expected, as he continues to elevate everything he's in, but I want to shine a light on Dunst's performance, Her career of late is faltering more than she deserves, and while Alison's character arc is no great shakes, she still imbues it with more life and charm than many actresses could muster. This includes the exceptionally boring Megan Fox as the exceptionally boring Sophie Maes, a movie star who is probably not interested in Sidney, no matter how much he prays. Her fake Mother Teresa biopic is chuckle-worthy, but it's got nothing on Downey Jr.'s Satan's Alley from Tropic Thunder. As far as everyone else goes, Jeff Bridges and the wig phone in their performances (clearly each thought the other would do all the work), and the script repeatedly fails the appealingly smarmy Danny Huston and a seemingly-game Gillian Anderson, as a professional/love rival of Sidney's and Sophie Maes' agent, respectively.
How to Lose Friends & Alienate People is the kind of movie you'd enjoy on television and forget by the end of the week, the cinematic equivalent of a catchy, radio-ready single by a solid band. It certainly could have been better (I'm sure a superior movie could be made about the same subject, even with an identical cast and crew) but its two leads are so charming and likable that you can't help but walk away from the movie feeling good. Given the subject matter, perhaps that's its biggest failure, but for Pegg and Dunst, I'll let it slide.
The centerpiece of what remains are the two audio commentaries, with Weide and Pegg and then Weide flying solo. It's a shame they couldn't get Dunst and Toby Young on the tracks, respectively, as they may have added the spark needed to push them up to indispensable listens. On the first, Pegg genially mocks his performance (he calls one of his facial expressions "a 1980's comedy with Michael J. Fox in it") and does amusing impressions of Danny Huston, while Weide makes deadpan jokes and points out pictures of his pets peppering every scene. The other track is quieter and there's some definite overlap, but this is the more informative of the two, for those looking for production info. Both of these are pretty low-key and Pegg's can't reach the heights of his Edgar Wright tracks, but there are no significant gaps and neither is ever outright boring. On the downside, as I mentioned, the absentee deleted scenes are referenced pretty much as frequently as possible on both of these tracks.
The only other bonus feature is "Sharp Interviews", which runs 18:39 and has various amusingly uncensored, reasonably entertaining interviews with Weide, producer Stephen Woolley, author Toby Young and the entire major credited cast, but it relies heavily on clips from the feature film. Nice enough, but nothing I see anyone revisiting. A digital copy promo (much like the commentary's talk of cut footage, this disc has no digital copy) and the trailers for Quantum of Solace, The Rocker, S. Darko and the horrendous-looking Bride Wars are automatic, while you can also select spots for Choke and Slumdog Millionaire from the menu. No theatrical trailer for the film is included.