There’s something that nags about Simon Pegg. He’s a completely affable and talented guy but yet to feature in anything that challenges him.
Understandably, he is the glue that holds together this tale of the ascent of cynical, self-important hack Sidney Young (Pegg) in the New York glitterati, but it is hard to see how this is any different from his turns in Shaun of the Dead and Run, Fatboy, Run. A socially defective male learning a wider lessen about life in unique circumstances.
Trading marathons and zombies for martinis and Z-listers, Sidney Young – apparently a more sympathetic portrayal of snide journalist and scribe Toby Young, whose life this is an account of – is transported to the heady heights of “inner circle” living when he gets a basement job at glossy Sharps magazine in NYC.
Young is arrogant and detestable but you struggle to look past Pegg’s impish charm, even if he is surrounded by cut-and-paste characters such as an idea stealing, slick department boss (Danny Huston) and Kirsten Dunst as a small-town girl aching to be a novelist but circling celebrity cellulite to pay the bills.
Having built a reputation as a party crasher and general miscreant, the pompous Young crosses his co-workers in the solid belief that he has been hired by the stern Clayton Harding (a steely and fierce performance from Jeff Bridges) to mix things up. How wrong he is. Cue transsexuality, accidentally killing a celebrity’s yapping chihuahua and embarking on a wave of narcotic induced patriotism on July 4th.
It’s when he clashes with the city’s leading publicist (Gillian Anderson) and develops an obsession with up-and-coming airhead A-lister Sophie Maes (a decidedly plain Megan Fox), his sensibilities return and Young gets the all important Hollywood narrative of “learning a lesson”. Once Young starts to get what he wants that’s when the film becomes a formulaic romcom, bereft of the humour and wit that had crept in at the edges of the first act.
Even with Pegg’s bumbling charm this quickly turns into a by-the-numbers affair doomed to peak rental charts for a week before disappearing into the bargain bin on the high street.