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I Love You, Man (2009) Print E-mail
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
ImageI’ll go ahead and say it: I love Paul Rudd. Ever since Clueless, I’ve followed his career with great interest. He’s a versatile actor, able to play several different kinds of comedy and isn’t too bad dramatically, either. And the man keeps busy. Looking at his IMDB page, you’ll find countless roles, ranging from huge to barely miniscule. He’s in some of my favorite comedies, such as Wet Hot American Summer, 40 Year Old Virgin, and Anchorman. He also caught my eye in more serious roles, especially the striking The Shape of Things. However, I was amazed that he almost never seemed to get any starring roles. I was relieved to see he finally got his shot in the successful, if underwhelming Role Models, and now he’s at it again with I Love You, Man.

Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) is a successful real estate agent. He just got the job to list Lou Ferrigno's Hollywood home, and the commission from it will allow him to purchase a plot of land he wants to develop. He's feeling so good about it that he proposes to his girlfriend, Zooey (Rashida Jones of The Office). After she accepts, Peter realizes he has virtually no male friends with whom he can share the good news. Worse, it means that he has no one to be the best man at his impending wedding. Desperate to meet men for a good, old fashioned platonic friendship, Peter ends up finding Sydney Fife (Jason Segel). Peter and Sydney hit it off immediately, with Peter admiring Sydney's upfront and honest attitude, and Sydney enjoying seeing Peter come out of his shell. But when they go from good friends to best buds, it threatens to damage Peter's relationship with Zooey. I Love You, Man is yet another Judd Apatow comedy, but this time without the Apatow. No, this is the brainchild of co-writer/director John Hamburg. Still, despite this, the film feels right at home alongside other such recent outings as Role Models and Knocked Up. The real draw of the picture is the chemistry between Rudd and Segel. While it takes quite a while for Segel’s character to appear on screen, the moment he does, you know you’ve got a perfect pairing. The two play off each other like the old friends they are, with Rudd in especially fine form. In fact, even more than Role Models, Rudd carries this film on his shoulders, and he proves he’s able to do it with style. He is wonderful at being both awkward and endearing, as opposed to someone like Steve Carell, who is perfect at being just awkward and inappropriate. Segel is no slouch either as Sydney Fife. He’s laid back, outspoken, and generally hilarious. His role isn’t as substantial as it was in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (hardly a surprise, given that Segel wrote that vehicle for himself), but he still gets plenty to do as Klaven’s foil and confidante.

If the film stumbles anywhere, it’s in being a little too focused on the Klaven/Fife relationship, often to the exclusion of almost everything else. And that’s a shame, because the supporting cast is littered with brilliant comedic actors. Peter’s parents are played by J.K. Simmons and Jane Curtin, his brother is played by Andy Samberg, and Zooey’s friend’s husband is played by Jon Favreau. The friend herself is played by Jaime Pressley, who has proven her comedic chops in My Name Is Earl. Rashida Jones, who plays Zooey, is best known from the hit TV series The Office. And many members of The State make appearances as well. You’d think, with all this comedic talent swirling around, the movie would be a nonstop ride of laughs, with each actor playing off the other. But no, these actors are essentially neglected. Simmons, Favreau, and Samberg get one funny scene each. Jane Curtin, Jaime Pressley, and Rashida Jones get none. I’m not sure if Hamburg didn’t know what to do with all the talent amassed before him, or if he did but simply cut those scenes out to give the film the leanest possible running time. This is a film that could greatly benefit from the ubiquitous home video extended cut that is almost a given for all of these kinds of comedies these days.

Despite this, I found myself almost always chuckling. The movie retains a pretty happy-go-lucky atmosphere, at least until the end of the second act where the conflict rears its ugly head. It’s a genuinely likeable film, even if some of the elements feel like they’re not getting the attention they deserve. While the extended cut will more than likely be superior, I still had a good enough time to easily recommend I Love You, Man.

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