The Kirsten Dunst Stardom Train huffs along with “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People,” the fourth consecutive romantic comedy (not counting an obligatory “Spider-Man” sequel) meant to turn her into a commodity the public wants to buy. But she is The Little Engine That Couldn't, and she's never going to climb that hill.
I suppose we're meant to root for her and Simon Pegg, whose own career is in danger of collapse after “Alienate” and “Run, Fat Boy, Run.” But she's so drab and he's so dense that there's only one reason for us to want them to get together – so the movie can stop. This takes an unconscionable 110 minutes, perhaps 4 percent of which are spent in recognizable human behavior. (Though a pig and a Chihuahua are quite credible.)
Pegg plays Sidney Young, a boor hired by magazine publisher Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges). Harding's nostalgic for his youth as a hard-hitting scribe, but that hardly explains why Sidney keeps his job after being drunk in public, dressing like a bum, insulting people he's supposed to interview, writing unusable copy and humiliating a deputy editor with a transsexual stripper in the office.
Somehow, Sidney endears himself to researcher Alison Olsen (Dunst). Though he initially repelled her with moronic, sexist comments and spilled a drink over the notes for her novel, she now finds him impishly charming. This is one of those scripts where people do things because they're the writer's puppets, not because they represent anyone you or I might know. The leaden comic timing doesn't make the old jokes funnier, and not one situation – really, not one – is fresher than a month-old codfish.
Never miss a local story.
By the way, Woody Allen is no longer the only director to set his movies in a New York with almost no people of color. Robert Weide makes his debut with a film in which exactly one non-white person – Thandie Newton, playing herself – utters a line, and her only scene ends with the pig urinating on her feet. Draw your own conclusions.