"I Love You, Man": Smarter than you'd think, but not by much
"I Love You, Man," starring Paul Rudd and Jason Segel, is an unusual, not-entirely-successful buddy film about the rules of male friendship.
Special to The Seattle Times
"I Love You, Man," with Jason Segel, Paul Rudd, Rashida Jones. Directed by John Hamburg, from a screenplay by Hamburg and Larry Levin. 85 minutes. Rated R for pervasive language, including crude and sexual references. Several theaters.
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Smarter than it looks from its ubiquitous trailer, but not smart enough to be a fully satisfying adult comedy, "I Love You, Man" has its heart in the right place. But its head is thick with dispiriting, cartoonish humor.
The film's premise flips the usual dilemma of guys who feel torn between their safe, bonding rituals with close male friends and the more uncharted — and therefore threatening — waters of exclusive and growing intimacy with a partner.
Peter (Paul Rudd) is a nice bloke whose high comfort level with women makes him a kind of honorary sister. He's not taken terribly seriously by other men, a fact that haunts his fiancée, Zooey (Rashida Jones).
Realizing he has no one he can ask to be best man at his upcoming wedding, Peter goes on a series of awkward "man-dates" to make a friend. Things click with Sydney (a very effective Jason Segel, Rudd's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" co-star), a low-key, fun but largely isolated guy who encourages Peter to indulge his inner wild man a bit. The trouble starts when Sydney and Zooey each feel threatened by Peter's divided loyalties.
It's to the credit of co-writers John Hamburg and Larry Levin (Hamburg also directed) that "I Love You, Man" doesn't oversimplify the Mars vs. Venus conflict or distort character flaws to make a point. In fact, tidy divisions and assumptions are refreshingly absent from this film.
Still, there is a degree of lowest-common-denominator junk in "I Love You, Man," including sight gags about bodily functions.
Rudd also wasn't necessarily the best choice to play Peter. The actor has always been most fun playing harmless-looking guys with a streak of dark rebelliousness. While "I Love You, Man" tweaks his image to ironic effect, he often comes across as annoying and even unlikable. With a broader comic range, Segel might have been a more interesting choice for Peter. I wonder what this movie would have looked like had he and Rudd reversed roles.
Tom Keogh: email@example.com
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When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.