The trend started by writer-director Judd Apatow (whom the gods of criticdom have mandated must be mentioned at least once in every review of modern comedy) ' raunchy frat comedy commingling with sincere romance ' continues to attract that coveted new comedy demo: women. Undeclared alum John Hamburg, in his new directorial gig, I Love You, Man, ratchets up the 'awwâ?� factor even higher. How do I know for sure? Because that sound, the exact tone of a woman's heart melting, rang throughout the theater like a Greek chorus of puppies and ice cream.
Most of the credit goes to Paul Rudd, long a solid romantic-lead contender who's never quite made it off the bench. Rudd's puffy, aw-shucks real estate agent, Peter Klaven, tends lovingly to his new fiancee, Zooey (the radiant Rashida Jones), with root-beer floats for her girlfriends and a non-threatening sense of relative security. Peter is head-over-heels for his woman; perhaps too much so, according to Zooey herself. He needs friends and a life of his own or he'll end up suffocating her.
After a series of 'man-dates,â?� he meets the one: sloppy Venice Beach investment banker Sydney Fife (Jason Segel, looking more comfortable onscreen with each new role). They bond over their love of Rush, and Sydney's patience with Peter in all matters dude goes a long way. But will they become too close for comfort?
That last question is obligatory in a film like this, and Hamburg does give it some play. But these are some of the smartest comedic figures out there ' they know full well how tedious the formula can get. To that end, the film takes a bold step: It doesn't make Zooey a shrill, insecure downer, or require Sydney to take Peter down the road to divorce, or forbid Peter from being upfront about everything going on in his situation, thus taking the age-old 'misunderstood commentâ?� thing out of the equation. In other words, the filmmakers studied Roger Ebert's decades-running condemnation of the 'idiot plotâ?� and watched their step accordingly.
This measured approach is a nice change of pace, but I Love You, Man doesn't really have an alternative means of inserting the drama. What that leaves us with is a friendly, often hilarious male-bonding pic that shares some qualities with Peter himself: good-natured but slightly toothless and, in the end, forgettable.