Dir John Hamburg. US. 2009. 104 mins
A Judd Apatow-esque mix of the buddy and romantic comedy genres, I Love You, Man hits the funny bone often if never particularly hard. With Apatow regulars Paul Rudd and Jason Segel appealingly teamed for writer-director John Hamburg (Apatow himself is not involved), this Paramount-distributed Dreamworks production should pull a sizeable audience of male and female moviegoers, though the bulk of its business will probably be done in the US rather than international markets.
After opening the hip SXSW festival last weekend, this R-rated self-styled ‘bromantic comedy’ goes wide in North America on March 20 with not much direct competition to worry about in the run-up to the summer blockbuster season. Paramount will be hoping to capitalise on the story’s nuptial backdrop to attract a larger female audience than is usual for the genre.
Performances in the international marketplace - where openings are mostly in April and May — may not be as strong. Raunchy romcoms often do less well outside the US and Rudd and Segel are not as recognisable outside their home shores.
Rudd (co-star of last year’s Role Models and a supporting player in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin) plays Peter Klaven, a likeable but slightly wimpy Los Angeles real estate agent planning to marry the woman of his dreams Zooey (Rashida Jones).
Realising he has no candidates for best man, Peter sets out to make some male friends and, after a series of awkward ‘man-dates,’ meets Sydney Fife (Segel, who also appeared in Knocked Up before starring in Forgetting Sarah Marshall), a self-confident free spirit with a healthy appetite for booze, rock and divorcees.
The script, by Hamburg (who also co-wrote Meet The Parents and its sequel) and Dr Dolittle co-writer Larry Levin, punctuates the male bonding between Peter and Sydney with scenes involving Zooey and her sassy girlfriends, giving the film a Sex and the City angle which should help broaden its appeal.
Peter’s changing relationships with Sydney and Zooey give the film what little dramatic shape it has but most of the real attraction lies in characters and comedy.
The background characters include some straightforward romcom stereotypes and a few twists on stereotypes, such as Peter’s gay but more macho brother (played by Andy Samberg). The central characters are both fairly familiar as well, though there are some different nuances. Sydney, for example, has a slightly creepy side that makes the story more interesting even as it makes the character less appealing.
The comedy produces plenty of chuckles. There’s the running joke of two hetero guys acting like a couple, some enthusiastically raunchy dialogue and some amusing bits of comic business such as Peter’s attempts at dude slang and cameo appearances from Lou Ferrigno and rock band Rush.
What’s mostly missing, however, are really funny set pieces. Rudd and Segel find some nicely naturalistic moments in their scenes together but the script doesn’t give them the situations necessary to produce big laughs. And it only finds the kind of sweetness which offsets the raunch in the best examples of this genre in the final wedding sequence.
Rudd and Segel make a strong comedy duo, with their characters’ different personalities echoed in the actors’ different physiques. Notable supporting performances come from actor-director Jon Favreau as the dork-hating husband of one of Zooey’s girlfriends and Thomas Lennon as one of Peter’s man-dates.
Hamburg tries to make Los Angeles itself into a kind of supporting character, shooting sequences at an LA Galaxy football match and in recognisable locations in the city’s Venice and Silver Lake districts.
De Line Pictures
Bernard Gayle Productions
Montecito Picture Company
Donald De Line
J K Simmons