I Love You, Man


Movie review by Greg Carlson

Another pleasant variation on the male-centric friendship movie, or “bromance,” in the style perfected by Judd Apatow, “I Love You, Man” blends mock sensitivity with the more comfortable trappings of adolescent vulgarity to cook up a reasonably entertaining, if strangely familiar, story. While Apatow’s name is absent from the credits, several of his regulars appear in prominent roles, including both Paul Rudd and Jason Segel. Directed and co-written by John Hamburg, “I Love You, Man” occasionally comes across as a little smug, too pleased by the running gags that range from the tedious (a character refuses to clean up after his dog) to the mildly amusing (a subplot involving the sale of the Lou Ferrigno estate). Only the chemistry of its leading duo makes the movie worth a look.

The basic premise of “I Love You, Man” is a bit of a stretch: sensitive, soon-to-be-married Peter Klaven (Rudd) desperately seeks a male friend to serve as the best man in his wedding. Following a few disastrous blind “dates,” which include embarrassments such as projectile vomiting and unwanted tongue kisses, Peter meets the oddly charismatic Sydney Fife (Segel), and a weird courtship begins. From “Superbad” to “Pineapple Express,” recent comedies have explored, to varying degrees, the nature of close male friendships, and “I Love You, Man” offers the most pronounced exploration of the mini-genre to date.

The buddy movie has been around for ages, but the Apatow-flavored variety moved the subtext directly into the text, transposing all the familiar expectations of the traditional heterosexual romantic comedy from a male-female to a male-male pairing. From the flush of excitement at first sight, to the montage-worthy bonding, to the conflict that demands a break-up, to the reconciliation in the final reel, “I Love You, Man” takes its title seriously.

Rudd does his best work snapping off withering zingers in supporting roles; to Seth Rogen in “Knocked Up”: “You look like a cholo dressed up for Easter.” Here he manages the lead with dexterity, charm, and tight comic timing, besting his recent performance in “Role Models.” Klaven lacks the guile Rudd normally applies in liberal doses, and it is refreshing to see him play someone without a dark edge or mean streak. Rudd’s Klaven is a tougher part than Segel’s Fife, a goofy, responsibility-free manchild who reeks of tragically hip slackerism in his vintage jazz tee-shirts and Venice Beach zip code.

One of the biggest problems of the male bonding film is the genre’s dismissal of women, who are generally utilized as shrews, nitwits, harpies, and emasculators – hindrances to the important matters that take place inside the testosterone-fueled man caves constructed by unrepentant bachelors. “I Love You, Man” earns a failing mark in the subject, and Rashida Jones, as Rudd’s bride-to-be, is stuck in a role that seems to have been written for a ghost. In addition to suffering the indignity of being unwanted baggage when the fellows attend a Rush concert, Jones must turn encouragement to annoyance and then acceptance as her very own wedding is upstaged by Sydney’s race to the altar. The passivity of her character is even more farfetched than the awkwardness of Peter’s “man-dates” en route to his hook-up with true soul mate Sydney.

This review was also published in the High Plains Reader the week of 3/23/09.

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