I Love You, Man
Directed by John Hamburg. Starring Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones, Jaime Pressly, Jon Favreau, Jane Curtin, J.K. Simmons, Andy Samberg. (2009, R, 105 min.)
REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., March 20, 2009
I fear Hollywood’s Golden Age of Bromance is ready for its decline and fall. Gone are the salad days of Wedding Crashers, The 40 Year Old Virgin, and Role Models, when the world was young and the thought of grown men-children indulging in extended gab sessions built around comic regression and pop-culture improvisations, while nevertheless giving passing acknowledgment to the need for women, was still new and dangerous. Looking back a few years from now, we might see the release of I Love You, Man as the tipping point, the moment when a trend became a formula, when inspiration became imitation, and when avid fans became a target demographic. Bromance pioneer Rudd plays Peter Klaven, a real estate agent living in Los Angeles who seems to have everything: good looks, a good job, a great apartment, and a beautiful fiancée (Jones). What he doesn’t have is male friends. So off he goes to find a best friend and a best man. The joke is that courting men for platonic relationships is really no different than courting women for romantic ones: Family members will set you up on awkward blind dates, you’ll worry about whether you should start with lunch or coffee or dinner, you’ll trip over your words and say things you don’t mean, and, invariably, you’ll fumble around the blurry line between affection and attraction (a scene in which one of Peter’s man-dates French kisses him in a moment of misunderstanding felt as inevitable as the turning of the Earth). But in the end, you’ll fall for a guy like Sydney Fife (Segel), who is big and strong and single, cool enough to have a garage for all his guitars and his wide-screen TV, and embodies all the raw, unfettered maleness you’ve been missing in your metrosexual, monogamous little life. I Love You, Man makes sure to give audiences exactly what they’re expecting – sweet scenes of romance and male camaraderie spiked by moments of sexual and bodily outlandishness, involving vomit or pubic hair or whatever – but I couldn’t shake the sense that the whole thing felt compulsory, like the filmmakers knew they had to hit certain marks at certain points in their script and dutifully went about hitting them without passion or favor. Segel's Sydney is just boorish enough to be dangerous but not enough to be unlikable. Rudd does his best playing the lovable schnook, the neurotic eye in a hurricane of kooky side characters, but it’s a long way from the heights of misanthropy he scaled in Role Models. And like most women in bromance comedies, Jones does exactly what she’s supposed to do by doing almost nothing. She’s the black hole at the center of Peter’s universe, the faceless force of gravity that silently and without personality ties him to the ground, lest the siren’s song of Rush concerts and blow-job jokes proves too powerful to resist.