"Bromance" and setting up a "man date" — who knew male bonding could be so complicated? That's the funny premise of I Love You, Man, a movie for grown men who don't get together and play touch football on Sundays, who don't have a "poker game," don't grab a beer with their "posse" after work.
That's who Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) is. He's an L.A. real estate agent whose friends are all women. It's not a real problem until he proposes to one of them (Rashida Jones). Her friends convince her that she should worry that having no homeys to hang with will make Peter "clingy."
And he's concerned because gruff dad (J.K. Simmons) and gay personal-trainer brother Robby (Andy Samberg) aren't the best options for best man. The jerks at work and the guys he fences with aren't good enough sports to make the cut. Peter has the taint of "nerd." They're just not that into him.
Mom (Jane Curtin) tries to set him up with man dates. His fiancée gets her friend (Jaime Pressly, bitter and biting) to make her husband (Jon Favreau, hostile and hilarious) bring Peter into his poker game — with disastrous results.
Then, just when he's given up looking, Peter's Mr. Right comes along. Sydney (Jason Segel of How I Met Your Mother) is sloppy- casual, a scooter-driving hipster who crashes Peter's open houses. Being hip, he is also wise.
"Hooking up is easy," he tells Peter. "Finding platonic male friends isn't."
Rudd and Segel, co-stars in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Knocked Up, have an interesting buddy-picture rapport. Rudd dials down his snark and channels his inner geek to capture Peter's befuddled charm. Segel wears his cool frumpiness with ease. It's no stretch to see him as a single man who loves "chillaxing," who refers to his garage apartment-home as a "man cave," who smokes too much weed and has way too many musical instruments — the better to cover tunes by "the greatest band ever," Rush.
Oddly, in Rudd's last "bromance," Role Models, the hipster-doofus pal was into KISS, "the greatest band ever."
The boy-bonding stuff is offhanded and awkward. Director John Hamburg (Along Came Polly) re-creates a nice Annie Hall bromantics-in-silhouette moment and peoples his picture with supporting players who don't let him down in scoring laughs. Lou Ferrigno, TV's Incredible Hulk, plays a funnier version of himself, a client whose house Peter cannot seem to sell.
It's raunchy, a little rude, but funny on a realistic, human level — very much like the movies Segel and Rudd have made with their pal, Judd Apatow. But unlike Apatow opuses, Hamburg knows not to overstay his welcome.
I Love You, Man is a the biff-bam-thank-you-man of "boys need boyfriends" comedies. It goes in, makes its point, scores its laughs, rarely slacks off and zips in a full half-hour shorter than a Forgetting Sarah Marshall or Knocked Up.
I love that, man.