Paul Rudd plays Peter Klaven, a straight arrow nice guy. By that, one means that he’s more of a girlfriend guy, and has always made his relationships priority in his life. Yet, he has no male friends. When he proposes to his girlfriend (Rashida Jones), he finds that lacking friends may be hazardous to his relationship. Built as a slightly unorthodox buddy comedy, I Love You, Man actually scores with viewers. Jason Segel plays Peter’s newfound friend, and future best man, Sidney Fife. Sidney is like a male version of my best friend Emily Bramande: blunt, honest, funny, fun loving, but very intuitive, and very smart.
The strongest part of the film is probably the performances, making both nice guy Peter and loose cannon Sidney believable. Paul Rudd is really good at playing the nice guy, having played Phoebe Buffay’s (Lisa Kudrow) husband, Mike on Friends for two seasons and also playing similar nice guy roles in Knocked Up and Role Models. Jason Segel, who tends to play nice guys as well in things like Freaks and Geeks and How I Met Your Mother, turns up the raunch factor significantly, almost to an uncomfortable level for some viewers. But, for those of whom who can handle it, all is fine.
Awkward humor is often hard to do, because it either comes off stupid, rude, or crass. Timing is essential to it, like with most forms of comedy. Two series have perfected the art of awkward humor; The Office with Steve Carell as a crass boss of a paper supply company, and Arrested Development, a show about one man and his family and how he had to keep them all together. What do these two shows have in common? They’re both, as they say, mockumetaries, meaning fake documentaries. Awkward humor works with this genre because a mockumentary, like a documentary, is supposed to capture and record spontaneous moments. In a scripted sitcom, awkward comedy fails because you have to give the audience time to get it. On sight gags, silences after someone mispronounces something; these are highlights of how awkward humor works.
Oddly enough, this scripted, un-mockumentary styled film, the awkward humor works splendidly. Peter uses old phraseology that you would be hard put to find a 60 year old using. He uses it on the phone calling Sidney, and leaves a message, and the audience is left to either stare blankly or laugh hilariously. It works, as I laughed quite uproariously.
The idea of bromance is handled well, as you begin with a man with no friends and a fiancée, then a man with one best friend and a slightly put off fiancée, and then a man with a best friend and no fiancée. Oh, this is much like real life, where the girlfriend feels left out and like you’re not spending enough time with her. But, it gets better, certainly less annoying than it sounds.
I Love You, Man could be called a celebration of guy friends, and not only does it boast a stellar leading cast, it has fantastic supporting cast members as well. Jamie Kennedy, JK Simmons, Jane Curtain, and Andy Samberg also star, along with the Incredible Hulk himself, Lou Ferigno. A bright comedy that makes lowbrow seem highbrow again, I Love You, Man is a must!