Just how likeable
is Paul Rudd? Let's put it this way: I rate all my friends in units of Rudd. (That guy? He's a three-Rudder. Her? Half a Rudd. And so on.) I'm hard pushed thinking of another comedian that comes across as quite so effortlessly chummy on screen, which is why the concept of Paul Rudd trying to find a male best friend seems an odd one to begin with. I'm right here, Paul! Just reply to my tweets, man!
I Love You, Man is an inverted rom-com; a chick flick with dick. Others will call it a 'bromance' and although that's a horrible buzz word - anyone who calls a friend 'bro' deserves to have all their friends killed in a fatal motorway coach crash - it does summarise this movie fairly succinctly.
A while back, when I reviewed wedding abomination Bride Wars
, I remarked that while the two female leads were out-bitching one another, the two largely unseen grooms were probably sat back at home, bonding, playing Xbox and generally being funnier and cooler than their harridan brides. Though it is still technically a wedding comedy, I Love You, Man is essentially the anti-Bride Wars: it's a rom-com that's 100% dude friendly.
Your friend and mine plays estate agent Peter Klaven, who pops the question to fianc�e Zooey (The Office's Rashida Jones) before realising that, over the years, his male friends have all fallen by the wayside. With the big day approaching and his manhood suitably threatened, Peter embarks on a series of exquisitely awkward man-dates to try and find a buddy who'll be his Best Man. After the inevitable crossed-wire gay-guy gag is exhausted, up steps free-spirited Sydney (Segel), who appears to be the perfect candidate.
I've lost count of the rom-coms I've seen where shy guys learn to love or crude virgins aspire to wet their dicks, but I can't think of another movie where the 'goal' was something so ingeniously simple as to make a friend. There's a genuine warmth in the way Peter goes about finding a buddy; the stilted conversations, the clumsy exchange of numbers the excruciating small-talk - men in this movie aren't so cool they drop a choice one-liner and strike up an instant rapport. Peter is trying
so it's a real joy when his friendship with Sydney takes off.
Segel, so fantastic in Forgetting Sarah Marshall
, is also immensely likeable (a strong six-Rudder), despite his character often acting in a somewhat patronising manner: the script has it that Sydney is a world-weary sage with all the manswers to Peter's relationship questions. What's never really explored is Sydney's motivation for the friendship - it's written off as, "You seemed like a cool guy" and left at that. Nonetheless, Rudd and Segel share genuine chemistry and the early scenes in which their bromance blossoms are tinged with recognisable humour; the dumb nicknames; the inexplicable use of silly voices; the embarrassingly out-dated 'man slang'. Hooking up is easy; finding a best friend is near impossible.
Though the screenplay does amble a little around the mid-point - you're never quite sure where the third act is coming from - and there are a few clumsy concessions to the requisite-yet-decrepit 'gross-out' audience (vomit in face, dog shit etc.) there's much to enjoy. There's top cameo-ing from Lou 'Hulk
' Ferrigno (people calling actors by their character name always cracks me up - see also: "Hey Spock, what do you want on your hot dog?") and Rashida 'daughter of Quincy' Jones, although very much a bit-parter here, is cute enough to convince us she's a worthy Mrs. Rudd.
However, it's the central relationship between Peter and Sydney that really convinces - it's a testament to the Rudd-a-bility of both actors that spending time in their company is always a pleasure and rarely a drag.