Two Dudes with their Heads Barely Above Water

I Love You, Man Film Reveiw

The 2009 “bromantic comedy” I Love You, Man tells the story of an engaged LA real estate agent, Peter Klaven, (Paul Rudd) in his quest to find a best man for his upcoming wedding. Peter’s forgettable fiancée, Zooey, (Rashida Jones) has her tight-knit circle of friends with whom she discusses every intimate detail of her and Peter’s relationship. Peter realizes he has “got to get some f**king friends” and enlists his gay brother, Robbie, (Saturday Night Live staple, Andy Samberg) to help him with his “manhunt.”

Our protagonist subjects himself to a string of awkward “man dates” ending in disastrous projectile vomiting and gay make-out fiascos. Peter is lovably awkward in mostly all social encounters, not hip to the witty banter of either gender. Peter is uncomfortable with all things manly, including beer and confrontation. After a humiliating pursuit, Peter meets Sydney Fife, (Jason Segal) who is at his gorging himself on rosemary paninis and analyzing the flatulent habits of a prospective buyer at Peter’s open house.

Sydney’s character acts as Peter’s foil. Peter is constantly uptight, insecure, sensitive, and taking himself a bit too seriously, but his new friend Sydney, allows him to let loose and open up about his life over their gluttonous consumption of fish tacos and beer. He also encourages Peter which such cliché phrases as: “say you’re gonna do it and you will.” Peter is always pristinely dressed in a dark colored suits with clean, cropped hair while Sydney is often wearing dirty Ugg boots, clashing plaid, tweed, and striped fabrics with greasy long hair. Sydney also lives in Venice Beach reflecting his relaxed and carefree personality as opposed to the manicured, cubicle-like way Peter lives. Sydney’s character is also lovable with his pseudo-violent outbursts on the Muscle Beach boardwalk. He is charming and socially comfortable, minus one memorable speech about Peter and Zooey’s sex life in front of their closest family and friends.

It was fascinating how director John Hamburg took the standardized formula of boy meets girl into boy meets boy, which is the main element that made the movie somewhat laughable. The twist of the premise was novel, offering a protagonist in search of platonic love as opposed to romantic love. The film is really a hybrid: the plot revolves around a wedding and love which is usually the focus of the stereotypical “chick flicks” yet is appealing to males due to its coarse humor. It is an attention-grabbing fusion of the two genres making the usually predictable rom-com into something a bit more interesting.

However, turning the story inside out by having two straight men passionately embrace in front of a fountain is not enough to induce laughing fits. The comedy lacked sharpness and intellectual humor. At one point in the film, Sydney tells Peter to “take out his tampon,” it is these crude comments that are primitive and unpolished, bringing down the caliber of the film. I believe the film lacked superior writers and thorough craftsmanship to develop a truly entertaining comedy. The comedy in the film was cheap, it’s shocking and gets an easy laugh but then fizzles out–I’m questioning if the movie would be funny a second time. I do consider this film to be satirizing the stereotypical cinematic love story, but the fact that it chooses to parody something unrealistic takes away even more from the enjoyment the characters bring. Certain unbelievable lines that no man would say to another, such as “I’ve got an ocean of testosterone flowing through my veins” are desperate attempts for a laugh.

The “slappin’ da bass” scene made me check my watch at ten-second intervals; it proved to me that this film is truly not funny. In this scene Peter is explaining to Zooey that he had a “jam session” with Sydney, proclaiming he “slaps the bass” in a variety of poorly executed accents. The scene seemed to drag on forever; it lacked crisp wit and instead relied on awkward moments for chuckles. This scene, as well as the entire focused on the embarrassment of the protagonist, Peter. I have no doubt that the film would be appealing to the target audience: teenagers and young adults of both sexes on the conventional dinner and a movie night. The film is essentially a 105-minute garbage pile of profanity and awkward moments and to those of us who are not 13-year-old boys (or enjoy that level of humor,) the film is less appealing. This along with romantic-comedy archetype also makes the film very anticlimactic.

I found I Love You, Man to be very reminiscent of a Judd Apatow-produced film, the 2007 smash-hit, Superbad. The dialogue where Sydney candidly professes his love for Peter is a shoddy, lackluster rip-off of the scene in Superbad where Seth proclaims: “I just wanna go to the rooftops and scream, ‘I love my best friend, Evan.’” I Love You, Man is like the stale, grown-up installment of Superbad without the cutting-edge. The film is a balance of the sweetness of Peter and the tart, off-putting essence of Sydney that made me bored throughout most of the film. It is the safe mixture of cute and funny that rides the thin line between dull and amusing. The humor was most definitely watered-down with missed opportunities and the nonsense “man-banter” between Peter and Sydney, is quite frankly annoying. This film is not a guilty pleasure that this type of slapstick and gross-out humor is supposed to provide to its audience.

Even though the characters are relatable and the underlying theme of wanting something you don’t have and the struggle of balancing the complicated bond of friendship with romantic relationships, the film was not good. Although the blunders greatly outweigh the admirable qualities, there were some entertaining, almost redeeming, aspects in the film. It seemed to be based off an underdeveloped concept even though the two main actors keep the film afloat –but barely above water. Both Segal and Rudd convincingly play the roles of the asinine, macho best friend and the effeminate, rambling LA yuppie. There seemed to be true chemistry between the two leading men and the snappy nicknames and banter (such as “Dude Von Dudestein” and “Totes Magotes”) are sure to be repeated in numerous high school conversations across America. At times the humor was blunt and gross, but on rare moments could feel fresh (“Totally, and it smells like fart.”) Secondary characters, such as Robbie and Zooey’s friend, Denise (Jamie Pressley,) bring a tremendous amount of energy and charisma to the ensemble. These peripheral characters shook up the film and induced laughter but unfortunately, parted too quickly. The film’s soundtrack was also lively and feel-good, definitely mirroring the LA environment and comedic nature of the story. The music was mostly sunny, upbeat pop by indie acts like Vampire Weekend with injections of 1980’s speed-rock by Rush.

Although the actors had great chemistry and presence, the initial spark of story of being a blossoming “bromance” hastily died out, leaving the audience left with underwhelming humor. The film provides sporadic chortles but not the genius comedic magic the target audience has come to expect of recent, similar films.  I Love You, Man is essentially a knock-off version of a Judd Apatow film–for those of you who want a gripping guilty pleasure that provides gut-wrenching laughs, I recommend popping Superbad back into the DVD player.

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