I Love You, Man


Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
I Love You, Man
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) proposes to his beloved Zooey (Rashida Jones) and she accepts, immediately calling her closest friends to break the good news. Peter, though, does not have a single buddy that he can tell of his upcoming nuptials. This realization comes as a shock to Peter and he immediately sets off on a series of man-dates to find a new best friend in “I Love You, Man.”

Robin:
Second-time out feature filmmaker John Hamburg hits on the solid combination of careful direction, a funny screenplay and first-rate chemistry between the stars that make “I Love You Man” a reverse date flick. Usually, a “date” flick is a femme film that has something to keep the guys attentive – like shootouts, car chases, crashes and explosions. The reverse date flick has a draw for the male animal – manly, straight, funny characters and a sprinkling of crude humor – but deals in things like relationships, romance, marriage and friendship that make it acceptable to gals.

Peter is on the verge of making a killing on the real estate sale of Lou “The Incredible Hulk” Ferrigno’s Hollywood mansion. The commission would allow him to start a development deal that will set him toward his own happy life with Zooey. She is thrilled with marrying Peter but, at an engagement party by her friends, she tells them that she is concerned that he does not have any close man friends. She does not know that he is in the next room and hears it all. The revelation is a shock for Peter and he decides to do something about it.

This begins his search to find the perfect man – Best Man, that is – and to prove that Peter is just one of the guys. Of course, he is a babe in the woods when it comes to man-dating and he gets into some uncomfortable, for him, situations with his buddy candidates. That is, until he meets open house crasher Sydney Fife, a self proclaimed investment consultant whose hobby is cadging free food at realtors’ home viewings. Sydney’s insight into Peter’s clientele and life in general fascinates Peter and he thinks he has found his new, best friend.

There are the requisite conflicts between Peter and Zooey, with Sydney at the focus, which introduce the mild angst that this good-natured film shoulders easily. All the characters are nice, fresh and amiable with Paul Rudd and Jason Segel playing likable and well as kindred, though very different, spirits. Rashida Jones is fine as the pretty, good sport fiancée who just wants Peter to be happy (and normal). Supporting characters is not complexly drawn but the casting – Jane Curtain and J.K. Simmons as Peter’s parents; Andy Samberg as his gay brother; Jaime Presley as Zooey’s best friend – helps gives them personality.

Director Hamburg and Larry Levin share writing credits and create an affable buddy comedy that goes in the right directions and pushes the right buttons. It gives you what you want and will appeal to young adults and beyond with the intelligent, and often goofy, humor. I give it a B.

Laura:
After Peter Klaven's (Paul Rudd, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," "Role Models") proposed to Zooey (Rashida Jones, TV's "The Office"), the girl of his dreams, the friends and family circle around them begin to notice that Peter doesn't really have any male friends. Even gay younger brother Robby (SNL's Andy Samberg) attracts more straight men, including dad (J.K. Simmons, "Juno"), than Pete does.  Determined to fit into the macho model, Peter tries to find someone to hang with that might be best man material and finds a pal beyond his wildest dreams at one of his own open houses.  Before too long, Peter will be able to confess to Sydney Fife (Jason Segel, TV's "All About My Mother," "Forgetting Sarah Marshall") "I Love You, Man."

Cowriter (with Larry Levin, "Dr. Dolittle 2")/ director John Hamburg ("Along Came Polly") flips the typical romantic comedy on its head for this cute bromance that showcases Rudd's comedic talents.  Acting as the 'girl' character, Rudd does a balancing act between effeminate and nerdy that perfectly captures Peter's comfort with women and awkwardness around manly men (that his hair is cut every so slightly too short around his ears helps the illusion).  As his new best bud, Jason Segel is a lot more laid back than in his own "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," and, thankfully, keeps his pants on.  "I Love You, Man" is the buddy movie equivalent of a chick flick.

Pete's the only one horrified at the breakfast table when his dad throws around some blunt sex talk and he is thoroughly grossed out when his high profile realtor cube neighbor Tevin (Rob Huebel) emails over a raunchy sex video, yet he's in his element preparing hot chocolate with pirouette biscuit straws when Zooey hosts girls' night. That's when he overhears cautions from Zooey's friends Denise (Jaime Pressly, TV's "My Name Is Earl") and Hailey (Sarah Burns) that the traits that seem endearing now will seem clingy once married. Peter enlists help from his gym instructor brother and even mom (Jane Curtin, "Coneheads") to go out on some man dates, but they prove problematic to say the least.  An attempt to buddy up to Denise's husband (Jon Favreau, "Four Christmases") finds him alienated after cluelessly winning a high stakes poker pot, then projectile vomiting on his host after winning a beer chugging contest.

After exchanging business cards with Sydney (note the female preference for name spelling here), Peter calls and leaves one of cinema's funnier voicemails suggesting a get together (maybe Favreau, whose "Swingers" voicemail montage is a classic, assisted here).  Sydney bites, suggesting a beach bar, followed by the 'world's best fish tacos.'  Zooey is perplexedly pleased when Pete shows up late and drunk.  Pete soon finds himself a regular in Sydney's 'man cave,' complete with jerkoff station and band gear for jamming, but after some male heart-to-hearts cause pre-marital distress, the friendship's broken to save the nuptials.

Segel makes a great straight man for Rudd, whose banter ('Totally, totes me goats') and nicknaming attempts (he's dubbed Pistol Pete - we had one of those in our bar buddy days) are nonsensical as whose every impression, be it Jamaican accent or tough guy movie star, comes out in Leprechaunese.  Segel is like that perfect guy whom we're made to doubt (a slightly embarrassing toast at an engagement party, a request for a hefty loan) by a script that doesn't abuse romantic comedy convention while hitting all its touchstones.  Segel's big-boned sprawl and ill-at-ease acquiescence to female rite (watch his procession down a wedding aisle) are the physical comedy opposites of what Rudd does.

Rudd and Segel get fine support from the ever reliable Simmons, as well as Huebel as a glad-handing snake, Thomas Lennon ("The Ten," "Hancock") as a man date expecting a real one and Lou Ferrigno (TV's "The Incredible Hulk") as himself and one of Pete's clients.  Favreau makes disdain amusing and Samberg flips the gay stereotype in a film about flipping the conventional.  Female support is more of the window dressing variety - Jones repeats her 'Office' character of Karen while Pressly just classes up Earl's Joy.  Curtain is forgettable, but Burns makes her needy singleton appropriately squirm inducing.

"I Love You, Man" starts with a high concept that Rudd and Segel take to the finish line. This is a buddy movie that women can enjoy, a surprisingly sweet take on male friendship that still has its testosterone intact.

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