After Hitch, Wedding Crashers and – most recently – Crazy Stupid Love, the wingman/buddy movie is slowly coming into vogue, establishing a canon all of its own. Though How to Stop Being a Loser treads very similar (read: derivative) ground, this unfunny mess sadly doesn’t sit well alongside its comic-hit counterparts.
James (Simon Phillips) is a nerdy computer geek and virginal “dateless wonder”. After his best friend Bob (Richard E Grant) commits suicide in despair at his own lack of success with women, James is left one dying wish from Bob: to get out there and find true love. He recruits pick-up-artist Ampersand (Craig Conway), whose sex-guru schtick is clearly based on Tom Cruise’s character in Magnolia but which lacks any of the latter’s spellbinding charisma.
The successful getting-a-loser-laid comedy (especially when there is male friendship at the centre of it) generally tends to be rather sweet and endearing. This is neither of those things. Knob gags, big breasts and (how hilarious) one man accidentally wanking off another man are all part of the comic landscape that director Dominic Burns so obviously hopes will have us all guffawing into our popcorn. James isn’t quite appealing enough that we ever really root for him: his attempt to win over a date by recounting a nasty paedophile joke kills off any affection we might have for him. Wingman Ampersand, meanwhile, is a charmless sleaze in whom much of the film’s humour has been invested – but Conway’s performance simply isn’t funny. Not, however, that he should be singled out on this basis: the appalling script means that no-one here has any razor-sharp witticisms to work with.
That there are mixed fortunes on James’ ladykilling mission (whose end, incidentally, can be predicted almost as soon as the film starts) hardly matters by the end of the film: the set-up – crucial for engaging the audience – is totally unimaginative, and the execution entirely tedious. No wonder Richard E. Grant jumps in front of a train within the first five minutes.
The special features include a three-minute featurette of the London premiere, consisting mainly of short clips from the film and brief soundbites from its actors trying to convince us how good it is. The commentary, meanwhile, features Craig Colman and, rather randomly, a pick-up artist named Cola, whose role is to analyse the male behaviour in the film and proffer advice on where James is going wrong. (The idea that this film is being used as a serious dating aid is rather worrying). Aside from making it pretty boring, this strange set-up invites several trite truisms: “A lot of this comes down to loving yourself,” says Conway sagely. “If you don’t love yourself, who else can love you?” Cola also wants us to know just how loveable he is: “For the record,” he tells us, “I don’t have AIDS. Or any other STD.”
Director: Dominic Burns
Stars: Simon Phillips, Craig Conway, Richard E. Grant, Stephanie Leonidas, Gemma Atkinson, Martin Kemp
Runtime: 109 minutes