The main gag of I Love You, Man involves using rom-com clichés with two men whose adoration for one another is entirely platonic. These are two straight guys, one of whom is getting married in a short while, but they’re going to go through the storyline of a romantic comedy anyway, because it’ll be funny. And it is funny. I did enjoy I Love You, Man, predictable and formulaic as it may be. It works primarily because of this small twist, and because its two leads either have amazing chemistry or absolutely none — I wasn’t able to tell.
Our main character is Peter (Paul Rudd), a real estate agent whose fiancée is Zooey (Rashida Jones). The marriage is set, but there’s just one question remaining: Who will be Peter’s best man? Peter is someone who always connected better with females, and as an adult, has no real male friends. Obviously, this is a big problem, so he embarks on a quest — with Zooey’s full support and encouragement; she’s more enthusiastic about it than he is — to find a friend, or many friends, before the wedding.
After a series of “man dates” — when two men who don’t know each other very well hang out for a bit to see if they can be friends — he eventually gives up on the idea. For some reason, he’s incompatible with everyone. This is until an open house, where he meets Sydney (Jason Segel), with whom he shares an instant connection. Sydney is a kind of ideal man — from a male’s perspective — in that he’s open, honest, and doesn’t have a care in the world. He’s the best friend every male wishes he could be, and wishes he could have.
Much of the humor comes from this Sydney character, whose observations about the world, and the way people act within it, are poignant and funny. It helps that Jason Segel and Paul Rudd are both funny people — I’m certain some amount of ad-libbing went on — but the dialogue in I Love You, Man is very sharp and quite intelligent. Sure, it contains its fair share of “low-brow” humor and gross-out jokes, not to mention a great deal of profanity, but the points it makes are important to think about, and it doesn’t dwell on these “lesser” forms of comedy.
I mentioned above about the chemistry between the two male leads. Many of their interactions are of the awkward variety. It’s hard to gauge whether or not this was intentional. It’s effective in the film, and I personally find that kind of comedy quite funny, so I was perfectly okay with it, but you can look at it either way. And if you find that annoying — “why won’t these people talk like normal movie-people?” — then you won’t like long segments of I Love You, Man.
Problematically for the film, the bromance between Peter and Sydney happens too quickly and without a lot of reason. It escalates without cause, and winds up being the least interesting part of the movie. I wanted to see more of Peter and Zooey, or perhaps even Peter and his attempts to sell a house belonging to Lou Ferrigno — who actually appears in a few scenes, and gets some laughs while doing so.
While he had nothing to do with it, I Love You, Man seems an awful lot like a Judd Apatow film. Some of these actors have appeared in his prior films, and this is a movie that fulfills the type of “rom-com for men” that he often seems to strive for. It has profanity and vulgarity, as well as a real heart. Thankfully, it has been cut down to 105 minutes, which is about as long as most comedies should be. There’s your key difference. Apatow films tend to run over what’s acceptable, while this one knows how long it should play and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Above all else, I Love You, Man is funny and a very pleasant watch. Ideally, this is a description that would fit all romantic comedies, but because they’re so often bad, I rarely find them either of those descriptors. This is a film that fills the room like sunshine and will make you smile, laugh, and generally have a good time. It has different style of humor for everyone, it has a bunch of likable characters, and it seems good-natured enough, even when it’s reaching for the lowest branch on the comedy tree.
The film is also populated with a great deal of memorable supporting performances. I already mentioned Lou Ferrigno, but the likes of Andy Samberg, Jaime Pressly, J.K. Simmons, Jon Favreau, Aziz Ansari, and Rush all show up in roles of varying importance. These are some funny people, as well as Rush. Add in Paul Rudd and Jason Segel to that mix, alongside Rashida Jones — who needed to be in the film more — and you have a winning combination of people to be a part of a comedy.
I Love You, Man is an above-average comedy, although given the crop of comedies in the last few years, one wouldn’t think it’s very hard to be above the average. It’s consistently funny, it’s somewhat intelligent, it has something for almost everyone, and it has a heart. It’s a very pleasant watch, contains a strong cast, and while it’s formulaic, it manages to rise above the rom-com clichés thanks to everything it has going for it. Its main bromance doesn’t quite work as well as it needed to in order to be a home run, but it’s definitely a funny movie and I quite enjoyed it.