x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

I Love You, Man

Funny moments make I Love You, Man stand out from the crowd of juvenile bromances, but the film still treads some painfully predictable territory.

From Laurel and Hardy to Bill and Ted, there's nothing new about the Hollywood buddy movie. Whether guys team up for wealth and fortune or (more often the case) to chase women, much comedy mileage has been found in the endeavours of hapless male duos. But when moviemakers shifted their spotlight away from the pursuit and on to the male relationship itself, the bromance was born. I Love You, Man is perhaps the first bromance about bromances.

Paul Rudd plays Peter, a sensitive and likeable estate agent who is newly engaged to the lovely Zooey (Rashida Jones). After she calls her friends to break the news, Peter realises that he has no such male friends with whom to celebrate. There is little to dislike about him, he has just always been focused on relationships with women, and male friendships have fallen by the wayside. The truth hits home when Peter overhears his fiancée's friends criticising him and his predicament. Worse still, with the wedding looming, he badly needs a male friend to fill the best man's shoes. The sad reality leads Peter to set up a series of hilarious man dates - informal get-togethers with similarly motivated men.

Unsurprisingly, many of these guys are not what Peter is looking for. There is an overly enthusiastic gym-goer with a glass-shatteringly high voice and a senior citizen posing as a man half his age. Peter comes close to abandoning his search. Then he meets Sydney (Jason Segel), a scruffy, liberated man's man who is everything that Peter is not. The pair hit it off instantly and the relationship builds from sharing drinks to extended jam sessions during which the duo indulge their passion for the Canadian hard rockers Rush.

The duo soon become inseparable and Peter asks Sydney to be his best man. Just as everything begins to look rosy, Sydney's unique brand of honesty begins to cause friction when Peter introduces him to Zooey and her friends. Things go from bad to worse when the newly liberated Peter becomes increasingly unrecognisable to his fiance. Even down to its title, I Love You, Man feels like the product of the comedy writer/director of the moment Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin). But other than the casting of his regulars Rudd and Segel, Apatow's name is nowhere in sight. You'd never guess it: the film is full of jokes about bodily functions, and there is the obligatory indie-rock soundtrack and plenty of geeky references to the 1980s, most notably The Incredible Hulk television series.

A handful of decent jokes and some clever writing make I Love You, Man more funny than most of Apatow's films. Much of this is down to Rudd, whose turn as a character discovering his masculine side is both interesting and funny. Some impressive cameos also keep the film feeling fresh and make up for the lack of plot. Segel's performance as the impulsive and carefree Sydney promises great things from the second he appears on screen, but becomes the root of many of the film's faults.

One of the ways the character gets his kicks is by allowing his dog to foul the pavement and then threatening violence on anyone who complains. He also uses his own language of "dude-speak", which Rudd's character attempts to emulate, but it just makes the pair look and sound like idiots. Sydney is not cool. He is rarely funny and his role as Peter's manliness guru feels hackneyed and dull. To make matters worse, when the drama finally gets going, it visits such painfully predicable territory that it's difficult not to lose interest. It is also disappointing how predictably the once-loving girlfriend becomes a controlling stereotype in these man-worshipping films.

There are moments that make I Love You, Man stand out from the current crop of juvenile Apatawian comedies, but they are all too rare.