With the twin successes of "I Love You, Man" and last year's "Role Models" it's possible to develop a new rule: No matter how dumb or cliched the movie's premise, if Paul Rudd is starring in it then it will be good.
At this point I could even imagine paying money to see a movie in which Rudd was a detective whose partner was a chimp. Somehow it would work and I'd probably end up giving it a B+.
"Role Models" employed Rudd and Seann William Scott in a stereotypical and dumb premise: two irresponsible 20-somethings are forced to mentor two oddball kids at a Big Brothers, Big Sisters-style organization. It should have failed. But with Rudd the plot worked and managed to produce laughs, strong characters, and emotionally-engaging moments. And "I Love You, Man" accomplishes the same surprising feat.
Peter Klaven (Rudd) is a moderately successful Los Angeles realtor who has just become engaged to his girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones.) As the couple begins planning the wedding they run across a problem which forces Peter to look at how he's led his life: he doesn't have anyone to be his best man. All his life Peter has focused his attention on girlfriends and female friends. He's never had strong male companions.
So he begins the awkward quest of trying to find a best friend. These attempts are difficult. Most people just develop friends naturally through school, church, or jobs. Fishing for friends is fraught with problems. As Peter pursues different male friends the parallels show up with dating. Thankfully the film doesnt milk the homoerotic element too much. There aren't a lot of quasi-homophobic "look at the straight guys acting gay!" jokes which have become a bane on the last decade's worth of male-oriented comedies.
Eventually Peter meets Sidney Fikes (Jason Segal,) a laid-back investor who drops by an open house Peter's hosting to try and sell the house of celebrity Lou Ferrigno, the bodybuilder best known for playing the Incredible Hulk.
The somewhat repressed Peter bonds with the more outgoing Sidney and pursues a friendship. The two find they have a lot in common, particularly an appreciation for the progressive rock band Rush.
Their friendship will hit a snag and the formulaic third-act-crisis-that-drives-apart-two-friends-or-lovers-in-every-comedy will emerge when Peter's friendship with Sidney starts to threaten his relationship with Zooey.
Male friendship has been a staple of R-rated comedy for decades. It's been one of the principle subjects of the films of Kevin Smith and more recently Judd Apatow the two most influential figures of the genre. So it was only a matter of time until a film devoted to the subject of "Bromance" emerged.
The prospect of "I Love You, Man" was something to dread. The idea of building a whole film around the silly concept of two straight men dating and courting one another as friends had to be approached intelligently. Your average Hollywood comedy director likely wouldnt be able to pull it off. We'd get "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry 2." The fact that the director was John Hamburg who'd previously directed "Along Came Polly" and had co-written "Meet the Parents" did not inspire confidence.
The film that emerged, though, is one that's really quite pleasant. Rudd and Segal create very true-to-life characters. Rudd in particular as the self-conscious Peter is a protagonist many men will likely relate to more than they'd like. Viewers will also relate to the warm friendship that Sidney and Peter develop.
The film has numerous kinds of jokes from crude dialogue to gross-out humor to memorable supporting characters. Jon Favreau as the jerk husband of one of Zooey's friends and Lou Ferrigno stand out in particular.
The film doesn't have quite the number and intensity of laughs to earn it a spot at the A-level of comedies. "Pineapple Express," "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" are all distinctly superior to it. Nevertheless "I Love You, Man" is a successful comedic diversion, well worth a watch, and establishes Rudd as an actor who can make almost any premise a success.