I fear that says it all. I did wonder why a movie with Jeff Bridges, Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst and the seemingly ubiquitous Megan Fox could be languishing in the bargain bin for a paltry €3, so I picked it up and gave it a good home. A DVD is for life, not just for Christmas, after all. It’s just a pity it turned out to be a bit of a dog – which is a real pity, because I so wanted it to be better given the talent on display (no, I am not referring to the obvious charms of Ms Fox).
Based loosely on the memoirs of British journalist Toby Young in the book of the same title, it could have been a really interesting insight into the machinations of the magazine industry, or a screwball comedy about a duck out of water – a journalist trying hard to make it in the bright lights of Hollywood with opposition from a hostile team of power-hungry writers and managers. It tries to do both in varying degrees, and even tacks a love story onto Young’s original text, just so there can be something in the way of a tidy ending, I suppose. The clear failure to direct the story and action (I’m looking at you, Robert B. Weide) causes the film to fall between two stools without a hope of getting back up again.
Sidney Young (Pegg) is a British journalist who publishes a magazine called The Postmodern Review, an independent magazine taking a swipe at the faux heroes of tinsel town and mocking the gullible sheep who flock around them. That is, until he pulls a stunt involving a pig in an attempt to get into an awards dinner, a stunt which goes very, very wrong. Clayton Harding (Bridges) of New York magazine Sharps likes Young’s attitude and offers him a job. Without a backward glance, Young is off to join the whimpering lap-dogs he once scorned.
In typical movie style, he finds it difficult adjusting to the new environment and makes few friends along the way, save for a tentative and somewhat fragile friendship with Alison Olsen (Dunst). Alison is preoccupied with a married man and and Young spends most of his down time trying to get into the underwear of upcoming vacuous starlet Sophie Maes (Megan Fox, who apparently has no concept of typecasting nor of irony). I wonder if you can guess what happens?
To be fair to it, How to… is not a really, really bad movie. It has a good measure of giggles and Kirsten Dunst is still very cute. Pegg’s Englishness is not overplayed and the story jogs along at a brisk pace to a fairly predictable conclusion. I just wish that I could have written a rave review of this, as the cast (including Gillian Anderson, whose talent is utterly wasted) is more than competent, the script – with a little work – could have been tighter and brighter and the whole thing overall could have been so much more. You get what you pay for, I suppose.