Appellate Judge Tom Becker loves Thomas Mann.
Our review of I Love You Man (Blu-Ray), published August 11th, 2009, is also available.
Are you man enough to say it?
Paul Rudd as an uptight yuppie whose bromance with an off-beat buddy leads to crazy situations and somber self-reflection?
Who'd'a thunk it?
Facts of the Case
Realtor Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd, Role Models) is one happy guy. He's about to marry the beautiful and wildly compatible Zooey (Rashida Jones, The Office), he's landed the biggest account of his career—selling the estate of actor Lou "The Hulk" Ferrigno—and with the money he expects to make, has plans to develop a nice piece of land.
His happiness hits a snag when it comes time to put together the wedding party and Peter realizes he doesn't have any close male friends. He's always been a "girl's guy," better able to relate to women, but suddenly his lack of guy buds seems glaring.
After a few disastrous man-dates—some set up by his brother, gay personal trainer Robbie (Andy Samberg, Saturday Night Live)—Peter's ready to give it up. Then, at an open house for the Ferrigno estate, Peter meets Sydney Fife (Jason Segel, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), an uncouth, amiable, overgrown man-boy. Peter and Sydney connect, exchange numbers, and bond over fish tacos, goofy nicknames, sex talk, and classic rockers Rush. Soon, Peter has found his best friend—and his best man.
But as Peter revels in this new relationship, his "old" relationship with Zooey begins to suffer. He's also having work problems: Peter's refined, laid-back style is not helping move Ferrigno's house. When Sydney tries to help him out, there's a blow up. Can this bromance be saved?
Once you get past the novelty of a "guy looking for guy" platonic dating movie, I Love You, Man is a funny, if generic, buddy comedy elevated by its actors. The script is clever and smarmy, but so formulaic that well before midpoint, you'll be able to figure out what's coming next. Peter makes pathetic effort to make friends? Check. Meets unlikely guy in unlikely place? Check. Starts enjoying his guy time more than his couple time? Check. Relationship problem? Check. Work problems? Check. Everything solved by the time the cast performs a cover song for the opening credits? Check, check, check.
There's nothing inherently wrong with formula comedies; clearly, if the "formula" didn't work, we wouldn't have been watching them since…well, pretty much since the beginning of narrative film. In "bromance" films of the past several years—and the films have been knocking around longer than that term—the formula includes jokes so raunchy they seem on the verge of decay, along with the inevitable music montage, and I Love You, Man has these in abundance. In its favor, it also has two completely engaging lead performances.
Paul Rudd is becoming an old hand in these films, which generally require a yuppie sort with some degree of uptightedness, and Rudd has that character down to a science. He's also extremely charismatic and a good enough actor to bring a little something different to each of his portrayals.
For I Love You, Man, Rudd brings a supreme vulnerability and awkwardness to the part. It's easy to see why guys don't like him. He's just not a "natural fit" with other men, and you can see him forcing himself to play along. He was that dorky guy in high school who always tried so hard but just never fit in—not someone you'd be embarrassed to hang with, just someone you didn't really want to hang with.
Segel's Sydney, on the other hand, is the guy you had trouble keeping up with, the coolish goofball who went to all the parties and got along with everybody, but wasn't really close to anyone. Now he's a manchild who's created his own promised land, setting up the garage behind his house as the "man cave," a post-adolescent fratboy paradise. Sydney never takes Peter into the house, but why would he? The man-cave boasts such pleasures as a stage with a full rock band set up, widescreen TVs, a fridge full of beer, and a masturbation station for Sydney's "alone time."
Rudd and Segel have great chemistry, which is crucial for making all this work. It would be easy for a film that uses oral sex as a major plot point and is rated R not for violence or nudity but for its "language, including crude and sexual references" to just degenerate into a heap of grossness. Fortunately, Rudd and Segel interact so naturally, that it's easy to overlook how gross some of their conversations and references actually are. Both actors add layers to their characterizations, so these are not one-note performances. While Rudd is in practically every scene, co-writer/director John Hamburg keeps us guessing about Segel. We rarely see him without Rudd, and much of what we come to understand about Sydney is less what's in the script than what's played on the actor's face. This helps add a little tension as we start to wonder whether Rudd has actually found the friend he's been looking for or if he's just being played.
While Jones has little to do, Jaime Pressly as her best friend has some good scenes with Jon Favreau as her "guy's guy" husband. Samberg gives solid support as the well-adjusted Robbie, as do Jane Curtin and JK Simmons as Peter's parents. "Incredible Hulk" Lou Ferrigno offers a good-natured self-take off, joining the ranks of "…as themselves" stars such as Jean-Claude Van Damme, Neil Patrick Harris, Bob Barker, and pretty much anyone who's ever guest starred on Entourage.
The disc sports solid tech, as you'd expect from a new release. For extras, we get a commentary with Rudd, Segel, and Hamburg, a "making of," and lots of deleted, extended, and otherwise messed-up scenes. It's a nice package, and it suits the film well.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Paul Rudd has been compared to Jack Lemmon, and certainly films like I Love You, Man are on par with the amusing but forgettable sex comedies Lemmon was doing during the '60s. Rudd is now around the same age that Lemmon was when he was making Under the Yum Yum Tree, How to Murder Your Wife, and Good Neighbor Sam, which shares with I Love You, Man a climax involving billboards. Of course, Lemmon had already won an Oscar at that point for Mister Roberts and had starred in The Days of Wine and Roses, a serious drama about alcoholics. It'll be interesting to see if Rudd starts focusing on "heavier" parts or if he continues honing his skills in comedies.
Funny and crude with two strong central performances and lots of good support, I Love You, Man is at least worth a rental.
I don't "love" it, but it's not guilty.
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