‘I Love You, Man’ a plotless but ultimately entertaining bromantic comedy

by Bill Wine
Posted 2/26/21

‘I Love You, Man” is a smart and highly entertaining bromantic comedy.  I liked it, man.

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‘I Love You, Man’ a plotless but ultimately entertaining bromantic comedy

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Each week, veteran film critic Bill Wine will look back at an important film that is worth watching, either for the first time or again.

If you've somehow not yet noticed Paul Rudd's subtle comic gifts, this is the movie — structured like a romantic comedy but with a friendly, gentle gender-bending twist — that makes them plain to see. 

In “I Love You, Man” (2009), which offers him a showy lead role, he gets to show his impressive light comedy touch.

Rudd plays Peter Klaven, a 30-something Los Angeles real estate agent who meets Zooey, a woman who would appear to be his soulmate.  When he gets engaged to Zooey, played by the radiant Rashida Jones, and they start planning the wedding, he suddenly realizes that he has so few if any male friends, he has no one to serve as his best man.

His family — mother Jane Curtin, younger and openly gay brother Andy Samberg, and father J.K. Simmons — confirm this, explaining that Peter has always had girlfriends but never boyfriends.

So Peter sets out on a slew of man-dates, most of them self-conscious and humiliating, in an effort to find someone with whom he can forge a quick friendship and then ask to be in the wedding party.

Among the candidates is a free spirit played by Jason Segel, an unemployed man's-man who first turns up at one of Peter's open houses in search of free food and newly divorced women.

The guys bond and start hanging out together, which, ironically, begins to bother Zooey, even though she's happy that her husband-to-be has finally found a BFF.

Director John Hamburg (“Along Came Polly,” “Safe Men”) co-wrote the undisciplined but insightful screenplay, which offers a considerable and consistent number of laughs, and shows enough confidence in its soft and not necessarily convincing premise (Never addressed:  Why not just have his brother be his best man?) to trust the audience to stay plugged in despite a minimum of narrative momentum.

Turns out that in a movie this humorous and audience-friendly, we hardly mind the virtual plotlessness.  This is an aggressively casual affair — mostly, it's just Rudd and Segal goofing around: the movie is as lazy as the characters — but spying on their improv-seasoned antics remains oddly entertaining.

Hamburg does stumble a bit in the last reel with one of those public conversations between two major characters while all the guests at a gathering stand there watching and listening: screenwriters seem addicted to this patently phony kind of movie climax.

But it's Rudd, masterful underplayer that he is, who, in an expert, wonderfully nuanced performance as a nerdy guy trying to change his image, hits it out of the park, especially in his numerous strained attempts to fit in and be cool.  He is, in those moments, quietly hilarious.

And he's complemented effectively by Jason Segel, who contributes an appropriately relaxed turn as Oscar to Rudd's Felix.  And the odd-couple tandem are themselves complemented ably by the supporting cast, including Jon Favreau and Jaime Pressly as a very funny pair of bickering but well-matched spouses.

‘I Love You, Man” is a smart and highly entertaining bromantic comedy.  I liked it, man.

Bill Wine is an Emmy-winning film critic who served in that capacity for WTXF and KYW Newsradio. He lives in Chestnut Hill.

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