A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this snarky comedy probably isn't on too many teens' radar, though it does star up-and-comers Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) and Megan Fox (Transformers). It's got plenty of edgy content, from nudity (breasts and rear) and swearing (including "s--t" and "f--k") to drinking (sometimes to excess) and drug references (there's a comic bit about cocaine).
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Londoner Sidney Young (Simon Pegg) edits the snarky Post-Modern Review, which mocks celebrities and the establishment publications that fawn over them. His most recent issue pokes fun at Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges), the self-important, ultra-powerful editor of glam, glossy Sharps magazine. Imagine Sidney's surprise, then, when Clayton offers him a job in New York. But life in the big leagues isn't quite what Sidney expected. Rather than being allowed to flex his sardonic muscles, he ends up captioning party pictures and fielding pitches to write flattering profiles of poseur movie types. Sidney's only friend is colleague Alison (Kirsten Dunst), who manages to look beyond his idiotic stunts -- getting drunk at the company picnic, ordering a stripper for the boss -- and see the good guy beneath. Alas, she's taken, and Sidney's attracted to a busty, vapid starlet (Megan Fox) anyway. And before long, he finds himself learning to play the game -- but at what cost?
Is it any good?
The affable Pegg has made a name for himself playing hapless, nearly hopeless sacks who, despite some loathsome antics, manage to be appealing anyway -- and his charm still works here. It allows him to get away with most of what Sidney does (though not all -- eventually, his act grows tiresome). Dunst is a good foil for him: Alison is low-key yet tetchy and hard to faze. Bridges' character, on the other hand, seems underwritten and underplayed: Clayton could have been the perfect match for Meryl Streep's devilish, Prada-clad editrix, but he's wasted here. But Gillian Anderson is perfect playing a public relations titan. Who knew Scully could be so cold?
HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS & ALIENATE PEOPLE -- based on former Vanity Fair scribe Toby Young's memoir of the same name -- has bite. And it's certainly funny, if not a full-on laugh riot. But it also pulls too many punches and ultimately feels a bit timid; it doesn't skewer celebrity and celeb-mag culture as sharply as it could have (Sidney's Post-Modern Review would have gone all out). In the end, it shies away from alienating the very subject it's making fun of, which makes it not nearly as endearing as it could have been.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the celebrity culture at the center of the movie. Is the film ultimately mocking the media's obsession with stars and their lives or supporting it? Do you think the movie offers an accurate depiction of how Hollywood works -- and how celebrity coverage is shaped by publicists? Why does Sidney get lured in by the celeb culture he seems to despise? And what snaps him back to reality?
- In theaters: October 1, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: February 17, 2009
- Cast: Megan Fox, Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton
- Director: Robert B. Weide
- Studio: Number 9 Films
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, some graphic nudity and brief drug material.
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch