Thursday, March 19, 2009

I don't love you, "Man"

The new comedy, "I Love You, Man" stars Paul Rudd as a recently engaged real estate agent who needs a pal to bring out his inner frat boy. Enter Sydney Fife (Jason Segel), a disreputable beach bum who encourages Rudd's character to loosen up. Despite some serious ho ho, the resulting comedy feels increasingly so-so, mostly because the humor and tone are awfully familiar. Here's another "bromance" that wants to cap its gusher of movie crude with a little sensitivity, and, heaven help us, a life lesson.

The movie's title is worth a short comment. It seems designed to recall the kind of bleary-eyed drunken moments when guys get sloppy and say things that are best left unspoken. Or maybe guys say things like that when one of them has a terminal illness and is about to cross into the bleachers of some heavily, field-of-dreams where the hotdogs are always tasty and the home team never loses. Or maybe they're words that Adam Sandler's fans dream of saying to him. "I love you, man."

It's the word "man" that keeps things on the up-and-up; i.e., away from anything that might know.

"I Love You, Man" begins with a mildly interesting premise, but develops in ways that aren't always clever, insightful or even credible. It's a movie influenced by TV-think and the comedies of Judd Apatow ("40 Year Old Virgin)," who had nothing to do with it, but who's famous for mixing ribald humor and sensitivity before garnishing the whole business with a little end-of-picture romance.

The movie begins in an atmosphere of pending bliss. Rudd's Peter Klaven is about to marry the girl of his dreams (Rashida Jones). Everything looks great, but Jones' Zooey has friends who can't seem to mind their own business. They convince her that there must be something wrong with Peter if he doesn't have a cohort of guy pals. The guy actually enjoys spending time with her. He's happy when they're together. He doesn't crave time with his former buddies because he doesn't have any.

The women in Peter's life -- including his mom (Jane Curtin) -- improbably send him on "man dates." They try to fix him up with guy pals. He also receives advice from his gay brother (Andy Samberg). Everyone seems to think it's very weird that Peter doesn't have a best friend, someone he desperately wants to be best man at his wedding.

Now, admit it. You know what's going to happen. After some false starts -- including one with a gay man -- Peter will meet his new best friend, in this case, a beach bum named Sydney Fife (Segel). Under Sydney's tutelage, Peter will begin to loosen up. And it won't take too long for his initially enthusiastic wife to believe that he's regressing, turning from a decent, sensitive guy into a lout who'd rather spend time with his new pal than with her. Peter, a real estate agent, also is trying to sell a house owned by Lou Ferrigno, who appears in cameo. And if you think that somehow his friendship with Sydney will figure in getting that house sold, you've already understood something about the predictable nature of much of the writing.

One of the movie's major jokes involves the strained way in which Peter attempts to be cool, mutilating slang and giving it a hopelessly nerdy twist, but Rudd looks a little too smart to be acting in ways that prove increasingly annoying and which are presented with the repetitive zeal of a guy trying to collect a bill. If Segel, who last appeared in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," is an acquired taste, I've yet to acquire it, although I'm not sure his performance can be faulted.

It's the script, man. To prove just how disreputable he is, Segel's Sydney refuses to pick up after his dog. I don't know about you, but leaving dog crap all over Venice beach isn't my idea of how to make a character's rebelliousness seem appealing. It's that kind of humor that limits "I Love You, Man" and keeps it from becoming the real comedy deal.


Anonymous said...

You just don't get it, man.

This is a fantastic movie! Rudd's character offers us an awkward sincerity that is totally endearing. You find yourself cringing at his nervousness and really rooting for him.

By the way, your review is the only review I've read (and I've read at least 30 of them) that totally misses the mark.

Oh yeah ... and it beat Julia Roberts' movie opening weekend by several million ... thus proving that Rudd is leading man material.

We loved it, man!

Robert Denerstein said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Denerstein said...

Glad you loved it, man. Really.

Wish I'd seen a movie that wasn't increasingly tiresome and familiar. Wish I left the theater eager to see more of Paul Rudd. Wish I cared that Rudd's movie made a few million dollars more than Julia Roberts' movie or that both of them were beaten at the box-office by a Nicolas Cage movie.

For those who do care, here's the weekend's score:
"Knowing," $24.6 million; "I Love You, Man," $17.8 million; and "Duplicity," $13.9 million.

If, by the way, you've seen "Knowing," you may find reason to be encouraged by the movie's apocalyptic orgy of an ending: Among other things, it could mean the end of "bromance" as we know it.