I Love You, Man: A Bromance That Is Merely Brokay
It goes without saying that the acerbic Paul Rudd and the earnestly goofy Jason Segel are two of the funniest actors in cinematic comedy today. Various folks from comedy troupes such as Broken Lizard, The State, and The Lonely Island are seen throughout this film as well. Why then is the end result a genial but underwhelming mainstream comedy– a laughfest big on smiles but short on laughs? The shoddy plot, big gag-oriented script, and obvious direction by John Hamburg impedes the good-natured chemistry the two leading actors share.
Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) is marrying the girl of his dreams, Zooey (Rashida Jones). While Zooey has a large circle of girlfriends, Peter doesn’t have any guys that he hangs out with. Embarrassed, he sets out on a series of “man dates” with the help of his brother (Andy Samberg) and his mother (the woefully under-utilized Jane Curtin), and nothing is working. Finally, he stumbles into meeting Sydney Fife (Jason Segel), a sloppy, outspoken, and honest man who has sparks of friendship with Peter. Eventually, they’re hanging out all the time– getting drinks, eating fish tacos, and having jam sessions playing Rush songs. Zooey is getting the short end of the stick in this new friendship however, and Sydney’s eccentricities do rub many people the wrong way.
There were two types of moments in this film I enjoyed. The realistic moments of spontaneous fun– Peter’s attempt to make a reggae voice is met with patient attempts at correction by Zooey, and Peter and Sydney’s jam sessions in a garage are infantile and glorious. There are also moments of sublime silliness– such as anything involving Lonnie, the squeaky-voiced man played by Joe Lo Truglio (quietly kept one of the most reliable character actors in comedies… he stole the show in Role Models), and a series of amusing real-estate billboards that grow funnier with each new one you see. They also packed the screen with funny people, so it can’t be UNfunny without some very hard work. Finally, they attempt to inject real heart into the film, likely a result of the success of frequent Rudd and Segel collaborator Judd Apatow’s work.
The problem is that Apatow, for the most part, succeeds in creating three-dimensional characters. John Hamburg, writer/director of this film, does not. They’re amusing caricatures that we understand, like sitcom characters from a familiar show we’re fond of. Instead of the realistic world Apatow places us in, we’re in a heightened reality that focuses on sex talk, dog poop, and people falling over, framed by the camera and shot with the timing to make sure that we in the audience get the joke beyond any shadow of a doubt. There are funny Apatowian moments that feel like improvisations (and probably are), but for all of those moments there are also “big gags” that don’t make us laugh nearly as hard.
Finally, there’s Paul Rudd. Perhaps it’s just his image in movies like this, but this character is so sincere and so (for lack of a better term) womanly that Rudd’s acerbic side seems to be twinkling behind his eyes and mocking the character from within. I can’t say I blame him… the film writes the character to be as one-note as possible. Rudd gives it a lot of effort, and most of the film’s laughs come from him and his reactions. However, the casting of Rudd holds the film back as well, since we never fully believe that this man could possibly be behaving in this way. In the end, to use the film’s terminology, the laughs never become ferbrocious, and thus leave the film to seem a bit medibrocre.