Friday, March 27, 2009

Have a Man Date with I Love You Man

Grade: A-

I Love You, Man has a pretty simple premise: what if you took all the tropes of a typical romantic comedy, but replaced the female object of affection with a male best friend? Everything discussed in Swingers a decade ago is still there - how long do you wait to call, why leaving a phone message can be a terrible idea - but instead of Jon Favreau seeking Heather Graham, he's seeking Vince Vaughn.

It's a straightforward premise with only a few major jokes, but those jokes are funny enough to stay fresh throughout. The first half of the movie relies on just one joke: Paul Rudd's Peter, a "girlfriend guy" now engaged to Rashida Jones' Zoe, is nervous around guys. He can't relate to Jon Favreau (yes, the Swingers reference was for a reason) and his poker-playing, beer-guzzling buddies (it all ends in vomit). When given a nickname by new bff Sydney (Jason Segel), his attempts to return the favor fall embarrassingly flat. And when a misunderstanding about a "man date" leads his new friend to kiss him, he just stands there and takes it.

You see, above all else, this is a comedy of uncomfortable humor. As Peter continuously puts his foot in his mouth to block all the painfully uncool and nonsensical things that come out of it, the movie just keeps getting funnier. It helps that writer/director John Hamburg knows his way around cringe humor: he wrote the Meet the Parents movies. If The Office is too much for you, you probably shouldn't see this movie. Sometimes the uncomfortableness does go too far, like when Peter keeps saying "I slap-a the bass" for what feels like 10 minutes. But if you can take some squirming, you'll be laughing out loud from start to end.

The movie's other main appeal is one it shares with Jason Segel's TV show, How I Met Your Mother: everyone's just so likable. Peter might be somewhat uptight and socially awkward, but who doesn't love Paul Rudd? Jason Segel gets a break from his Forgetting Sarah Marshall character, here giving the tutorials on manliness and proving himself worthy of Peter's friend crush. Rashida Jones, as the fiancee left out of the bromance, mostly just has to act pretty and supportive, and she nails both of those. I Love You, Man may not hold up to the best of the Judd Apatow movies, but it is the funniest movie I've seen in awhile. These days, that's all you can ask for.

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