They say you can't put lipstick on a pig, and that roughly applies to screenplays too, a point made clear by this dumbed-down adaptation of British writer Toby Young's scathing 2001 memoir and entertainment media kiss-off. Oh, and there's an actual pig here, one the hero attempts to pass off as the star of Babe to land backstage at a movie awards show — and the film's fortunes head south the moment porky piddles on a celeb's leg.
Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz) is Sidney Young, a Toby stand-in, who in real life turned his success as snarky, underground flame-thrower into a disastrous, bridge-burning, five-year run atop New York's glossy publishing glitterati. On screen, the fictional Sharps is Vanity Fair and Jeff Bridges' eccentric Clayton Harding is a thin disguise for flamboyant VF editor Graydon Carter — who hires Young because he reminds him of himself when he had balls — and put out the brilliantly bitchy Spy, here called Snipe. The other names have been changed to protect the guilty, but the supporting stereotypes include Danny Huston as the vain, deceitful rival, and Kirsten Dunst as the brainy cynic and a closet romantic with whom Sidney falls hopelessly in love. Also on hand is Gillian Anderson as a wicked publicist — the role she was born to play — and Megan Fox is a ditzy, super-ambitious and hyper-sexualized starlet who, in a memorable moment destined for Internet clip immortality, crosses a swimming pool in a clingy wet cocktail dress.
If only the rest of the flick stood out as well as Ms. Fox's nips, but it's mostly a blur of pratfalls and lame sight gags. The biggest problem is Pegg — who's brilliant in his own stuff, such as Sean of the Dead — who's forced to play it cute rather than nasty. The real Young was a poison pill, but this guy's a pudding pop, a slob who's constantly scarfing food, stumbling around and doing embarrassing "dumb white guy" dance moves. It's a shame; the elements are here for a ripping inside show-biz satire. Instead we get a sort of Ugly Betty for dudes, a formula that's sure to alienate more people than it charms.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.