I Love You, Man
Buddy Comedy Pulls Through (Mostly)
Starring: Paul Rudd, Jason Segel
By Colleen Dillon
I was really looking forward to I Love You, Man upon seeing the initial trailer. I liked last year’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which also stars Paul Rudd and Jason Segal, and I expected the duo to deliver another hilarious comedy. Somehow, though, the movie didn’t turn out to be quite as funny as I had hoped.
The storyline is fairly simple: Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) has spent the vast majority of his social life solely with women and now, as his wedding day approaches, begins a search for male friends to be his groomsmen. When I say the movie isn’t funny, I don’t mean it isn’t entertaining. I Love You, Man is actually a very easy-to-watch film. The characters are interesting, there are plenty of sub-plots to keep the wandering mind attentive, the pacing is impeccable, and Paul Rudd and Jason Segal perform Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.” I enjoyed this movie, but it simply isn’t that funny.
Paul Rudd is mostly good at reactionary comedy, where his responses to someone else’s bizarre behavior make a situation humorous. He can also pull off wacky caricatures, oblivious to other’s responses to his own bizarre behavior. What Paul Rudd can’t pull off, apparently, is creating humor in self-doubt or embarrassing behavior. There is a seemingly elongated sequence in which Peter plays “air bass” and screeches out a tune for his girlfriend, Zooey (Rashida Jones). Had the scene not involved Peter checking eagerly for Zooey’s reaction to his goofy antics, and thus not paralleled Rudd’s effort for a laugh from the audience, this, like numerous other scenes in the film, would have graciously lost its awkward edge. Rudd’s timing is good, but in a film where he’s constantly (and unsuccessfully) trying to impress others with botched wittiness and “smooth” responses, his cinematic failures become real ones as well.
Luckily, Rudd’s charisma, if not his comic talents, come through in Peter, at least making the character someone the audience can like and relate to. As Peter begins his search for new friends, he enlists the help of his mother and his gay brother, Robbie (Andy Samberg). Peter has some bizarre experiences trying to buddy up with guys and quickly learns the strict rules that keep what Robbie calls a “man date” from becoming a romantic date. After failing to connect with any potential new friends, Peter serendipitously meets Sydney Fife (Jason Segal), who is honest, laid-back, and willing to hang out with Peter.
Jason Segal’s performance was probably my favorite in the movie. The thing that most makes these types of comedies (even the not-so-funny ones) so charming to me is the feeling of authenticity that the actors are able to convey. Segal seems especially good at this in I Love You, Man. Through things as slight as facial tics, to the ease with which he talks to Rudd, to his enthusiastic rendition of “Tom Sawyer,” Segal makes Sydney into a particularly real and likeable character.
Peter’s friendship with Sydney blossoms, but sometimes at the expense of his relationship with Zooey. The rest of the movie is formulaic – love is tested, feelings are hurt, relationships are renewed – but none of it ever gets tedious. Again, although the film didn’t live up to the rather high laugh-fest expectations I had for it, it is still thoroughly enjoyable. In fact, I should give it slightly more credit on the comic front. I can’t say I didn’t chuckle a few times in the theater and one incident involving an anticlimactic playing of a Rush song had me laughing even after the movie had ended. Even if the level of cleverness I’d been looking for isn’t there, the film certainly isn’t a loss. I Love You, Man is the kind of movie that allows you to find the entertainment value in very regular, human situations and, perhaps like an extended sitcom, is effective in providing an hour and a half free from the less lighthearted effects of reality.