The casting in I Love You, Man is a stroke of relative genius. Paul Rudd and Jason Segel are two of the funniest — and most likable — comedians working in film today, and for all of I Love You‘s vulgarity, these two leads keep the film afloat. The sincerity of their performances translates even during the cruder moments of oral sex and dog poo gags.
Rudd plays Peter Klaven, a Real Estate agent trying desperately to sell Lou Ferrigno’s mansion. He’s engaged to Zooey (Rashida Jones), who asks him about his Best Man for the wedding, which provides Peter the sudden realization that he doesn’t really have many male friends. “I’ve always been a girlfriend guy,” he explains, and becomes worried enough about his predicament that he even enlists the help of his gay brother (Andy Samberg) to hook him up with a potential best friend.
After some failed dates (one of them, indeed, becomes a predictable-but-funny misunderstanding courtesy of a hilarious supporting role by Thomas Lennon), and on the verge of admitting defeat, Peter finally meets Sydney Fife (Segel) at one of Ferrigno’s open houses. Sydney instinctively likes Peter because the buffet is “classy.” Peter, likewise, admires Sydney’s free lifestyle and honest approach to life.
If this all sounds like by-the-numbers Apatow/Frat Pack humour, then that’s probably because it is. The so-called “Bromance” genre has been swiftly accumulating over the past few years, and I Love You, Man goes through many traditional plot devices of the romantic comedy, including the mandatory break-up and make-up sequences. However, it also plays upon a few of these cliches thanks to its gender reversals: The finale, for instance, involves a wedding interruption that’s overly familiar for the movie’s genre, but it involves the two men making amends with each other rather than the typical outcome we’re used to seeing (for instance, Owen Wilson’s objection from Wedding Crashers). Of course, you can forsee most of this by the film’s halfway point — by then it’s already juxtaposing its bromance against typical rom-com procedures — but it’s still quite enjoyable.
[amazon-deals align="right"]fc64116b-6b59-444b-b4ee-074a4adecf57[/amazon-deals]One other note of interest, which seemingly not many critics recognized, is how Rudd and Segel are playing against their established types. Rudd is usually the cynical, effortlessly self-confident jokester; Segel is typically the more shy, awkward and introverted personality. Yet the two actors essentially walk in each other’s shoes for this film, and I was surprised, in particular, by how much I liked and believed Rudd’s character. He plays Peter not as a complete fool or meek nerd, but as an amiable, nice guy who is just a bit out of the loop socially. His obvious ad-libbing in various scenes — from referring to Sydney with nonsensical nicknames to his curious Jamaican accent — benefits the movie well.
Segel, who claims to have been inspired for his performance by Forgetting Sarah Marshall co-star Russell Brand, is admittedly given a bit less to do — his character isn’t as fully developed as Peter, nor does he go through as complete a transformation — but he’s completely appealing as a balance to Rudd’s act, and perfectly embodies the unhinged male spirit. Sydney’s life seems to consist of general slacking, playing music, listening to music, eating, having sex, watching TV and so on. He even has his own masturbation station.
The supporting cast is impressive. Jon Favreau cameos as a wonderfully arrogant prick; you’ll also spot typical Apatow teammates as minor characters. Joe Lo Truglio (the creepy guy from Superbad and school principal in Pineapple Express) is particularly funny as a man with an unfortunate vocal pitch problem.
The movie will ultimately appease those who desire vulgar humour, but it’s also sweet and affectionate enough to please the weekend multiplex crowds and couples. If I Love You, Man isn’t the best comedy of 2009, that’s only because so many surprisingly strong contenders have been released this year.