Review: I Love You, Man
I used to dread the thought of Hollywood taking yet another stab at the buddy picture.
You know, over the last 30 or 40 years we got the good cop/bad cop movie, then it was black cop/white cop, then old cop/new cop. When the two-cop flicks started to bore people, studios moved on to other non-cop buddy combos: obnoxious/meek buddies, cool/geeky buddies, gay/straight buddies, successful/unsuccessful buddies. They used up all those buddy types too.
Thankfully, every year or two a few deft filmmakers figure out a formula for a buddy picture that crackles with a bit of originality. The crude but hilarious "Wedding Crashers" (2005) is an example of a tandem (Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson) that clicked mightily with viewers and reviewers. As serial wedding crashers in their mid-30s who eventually start to question the wisdom (and long-term viability) of their lifestyle, the buddies do get into their share of disagreements. But the movie didn't dwell on the two guys' differences. There weren't that many, in fact. As raunchy as the movie got at times, it actually dealt with the topic of growing up - and, to a lesser extent, falling in love.
Now there's another fine buddy picture in theatres, and I'd say it has just as intriguing a concept.
"I Love You, Man" is about a real estate agent named Peter Klaven who proposes to his girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones) but quickly discovers he has no male friends to speak of, and likely won't have time to rustle up a best man before his wedding. Paul Rudd plays the sensitive but clueless, metrosexual Klaven, whose attempts to track down a friend through a series of "man dates" service the amusing premise of "I Love You, Man." It's co-written and directed by John Hamburg, who also helmed and wrote the Ben Stiller comedy "Along Came Polly" (2004) and co-wrote Stiller's "Meet the Parents"(2000) and its sequel. It's a joyful romp, mainly because Rudd is so believable - and so awkwardly funny. He doesn't get his laughs via the typical channels, ie: glib one-liners or broad slapstick. He earns them through a seemingly endless string of verbal missteps and some delicious - for those who like this kind of thing - cringe-inducing dweebiness. His tendency to embarrass himself in almost every situation involving other men makes you wonder how he's risen as far as he has in his real estate career.
As the movie poster will tell you, Jason Segel plays the man date who just may be the one to click with Peter. Segel's Sydney Fife is an easygoing bear of a man, without pretence, who loves the Canadian band Rush, his dog, and living near the beach. Will Sydney see through Peter's ineptitude and embrace his friendship in time for the wedding? I hope you'll go and find out.
The thing I liked most about "I Love You, Man" was its commitment to its stated goal, which was to explore the phenomenon of "bromantic love" (the studio's term, not mine - unfortunately)." Also, I respect Hamburg for not letting it devolve into a typical boy-messes-up-and-apologizes-to-the-girl-just-in-time romantic comedy. In the process of making me laugh, it got me thinking about what it takes to find, hold and keep a man friend. And it showed me it's a lot more difficult than you might think, especially when time is tight.
"I Love You, Man" is not up to the same level of "The Wedding Crashers," but it's an entertaining, occasionally hilarious film. It also reinforces the notion (begun last year with the comedy "Role Models") that Paul Rudd is a terrific comedic leading man, not just a supporting player. Best of all, "I Love You, Man" bucks the odds and resurects the tired, old buddy picture. And that's definitely something to celebrate.
****stars (out of five)