Rating: 2.5 stars
I Love You, Man follows many of the conventions of the romantic comedy:
We have two people, hopelessly mismatched, yet destined to be together.
They meet cute, fall in love, and break up.
In the end, there’s a wedding where they realize they can not be apart.
Of course, the difference here is that I Love You, Man is about a platonic love affair between two straight guys and the wedding is between our hero Peter (Paul Rudd) and his girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones). But make no mistake, all eyes will be on Peter and Sydney (Jason Segal).
As the story begins, Peter, a Realtor who is trying to sell Lou Ferrigno’s house (yes, the Hulk himself is featured), has just proposed to Zooey and she has accepted. Both are ecstatic, but Zooey has one lingering concern: Peter is the kind of guy who enjoys nothing more than a night of fine wine, summer salads, and a screening of Chocolat, and thus, he has no male friends. Zooey is worried this might make him a bit clingy.
So Peter sets off to find a BFF, a bro, a best man.
Many attempts are thwarted: One potential pal is a miniature roid freak who starts a fight at a hockey game; another is an old man in his 80s, who has lied about his age on Friendfinder.com; a third, inevitably, is gay and thinks Peter is coming on to him.
Finally, he meets Sydney Fife, a man who prowls open houses for the free food and hot divorcees. They hit it off and Peter wants to call him, but is as nervous as he would be asking a girl on a date. Again, we go through the romantic comedy cliches: Peter practicing his delivery before mustering up the nerve to call Sydney, and finally sputtering a too long, falsely casual message on Sydney’s machine. But, much to Peter’s delight, Sydney calls him back, they discover a mutual love of the band Rush, and a bromance is born.
Much of the humor of I Love You, Man derives from Peter’s attempt at chummy, guy-banter with Sydney. Sydney immediately gives Peter a nickname—Pistol—but Peter has no such way with locker room male colloquialisms. This is extremely funny at first—Paul Rudd can do mortified emasculation like no other—but becomes a little tiresome at times.
As for Sydney, we’re not sure what to make of him. He’s a man’s man, who follows his id, not cleaning up after his dog’s poo, drinking during the day, spending time in his “man cave” of booze, porn, and electric music. Is he good for Peter? Potentially a con man? The film keeps us guessing, even as we are getting invested in this new friendship.
I Love You, Man has a great time turning stereotypes on their head—Peter’s brother Robbie (SNL’s Andy Samburg) is gay, but much more of a laid back guy's guy than Peter can ever hope to be—and has some nifty supporting work from Jon Favreau as a grumpy alpha male who can’t stand the sight of Peter and the irreplaceable JK Simmons as Peter’s droll dad.
In the end, Rudd and Segal do what they do best, but there is a slight whiff of laziness to the whole endeavor. Director John Hamburg probably thought: High concept + zeitgeisty stars = comedic gem. He’s right to an extent, but a little more effort might’ve made this movie a true keeper instead of a mere spring fling.