Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) has just proposed to his girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones, TV's "The Office"). As Zooey tells all of her friends and family, she asks Peter if he wants to use the phone to tell his friends. But he doesn't really have a lot of friends, as his dad (JK Simmons) reveals one night at dinner with the family. Yes, Peter always had more female friends, chimes in his mom (Jane Curtin). Peter suddenly realizes he will have trouble finding a Best Man for the wedding. Zooey encourages him to try to find some friends, but she isn't concerned about the wedding party being unbalanced, even after her BFF Denise (Jaime Pressly, TV's "My Name is Earl") brings the subject up. But Peter decides he needs to find some friends and meets a bunch of possibilities, including a strange guy his gay brother (Andy Samberg, "Saturday Night Live") sets him up with. Then, he meets Sydney Fife (Jason Segal, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall") who has crashed an open house Peter is hosting at Lou Ferrigno's home. Peter is a real estate agent and is trying to sell the home to make a huge commission and develop a real estate plan of his own. They go out a few times and Peter decides to introduce him to Zooey. But both Zooey and Peter talk to their friends a lot, and share very personal things, which comes back to haunt both of them.
"I Love You, Man," co-written by John Hamburg (writer of "Meet the Parents" and writer –director of "Along Came Polly") and Larry Levine ("Dr. Doolittle) and directed by Hamburg, is a very funny movie.
Very much like a Judd Apatow film, Hamburg and Levine have created a natural universe for their characters to romp through. Perhaps the best thing about this film is that almost every lead character has a real basis in the real world. They get involved in strange and wacky situations, but because we believe they could exist, these situations are funnier and more interesting. Every film is better when there is at least a small part of it based in reality. If these characters exist in a real world, what happens to them, what they do, how they react, everything is funnier because we feel it could happen.
Paul Rudd has become so great at playing the Confused, Awkward Caucasian it is almost becoming his stock character. In "Man", he uses all of his trademarks (awkward statements, attempts to fit in with the rest, nervousness) to make Peter a very funny guy. A lot of the humor from this character, and most Rudd plays, are that they all initially seem so normal. Peter is a Real Estate Agent with dreams to develop his own property. He is in love with his girlfriend. Everything is good in his life. Everything is normal. But then he begins to listen to Zooey's friends gossip about his lack of male friends and begins to wonder if he should have a few of these guys to call his own. He begins to worry that his lack of friends may have some affect on the wedding and begins to become frantic with worry and indecision. The word gets out, he tries to capitalize on some relationships with casual acquaintances and he begins to meet other guys, testing the waters to see if he has any potential BFFs out there.
In most comedies, this would be the moment for the laughs to flow. Each of the guys would provide a brief, funny moment because they are simply so out of left field you can't help but laugh at their quirky behavior. And this is the case in "I Love You, Man". One of the potential friends is a guy whose voice seems to be changing, even though he is in his mid thirties. Seemingly oblivious to this fact, he begins to call out chants at an LA Galaxy soccer game, coming close to starting a riot because everyone simply wants him to shut up. Zooey's best friend, Denise (Pressly), pushes her husband to include Peter (Jon Favreau) in his next guy's night out. Peter is all for it, but can't handle the excitement too well, providing the film's required Gross Out laugh.
But what sets "I Love You, Man" apart from the rest is Rudd's portrayal of Peter. Peter isn't just an average straight guy, designed to allow all of the other funny people to do their shtick. Peter is normal, but he also has a sense of humor and can laugh at himself. Because he has never had many male friends, when he tries to set up get-togethers with some of these potential friends, his phone calls are awkward to the point of embarrassing and he comes across as a teenager calling a girl for their first date. These moments are what help make this film stand out.
Jason Segel, who was so memorable in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall, plays Sydney, a man who crashes an open house hosted by Peter. They strike up a conversation and Sydney provides keen insight to the realtor. "That guy needs to fart. Look at the way his cheeks are clenched", he says while pointing at a guy across the room, a guy who is using the open house to try to impress a good looking lady he is trying to date. Sure enough, he appears to be right as the guy in question does exactly what Sydney says he will. Peter is intrigued and decides to give him a try and they begin to spend time together. Peter seems to be attracted to Sydney because he is a much more unconventional guy. He spends a lot of time at home, working only when absolutely necessary. He seems to have a lot of quirks and may even be a little crazy. All traits that Peter doesn't have.
A side note: As Peter tries to appear Sydney's equal; his attempts to seem 'cool' are hilariously awkward.
Segel is funny as Sydney, but less original in the role. We get it, he's a slacker. He plays with his band equipment during the day, he has strange personal habits, and he likes to lay around his house when he should be working. And a lot of what he does is funny. But because he is a slacker, we sort of expect him to act like he does and it just seems less interesting and original. At one point, he asks Peter to give him some money for an investment, that's what Sydney does, invest, but Peter still becomes suspicious.
The more time these two spend together, the more uninhibited Peter feels in his presence. They begin to share a lot of personal information and Peter starts to spend more time with him than with Zooey. Unfortunately, both of these points shoot the story into a pretty familiar place and because it still manages to make us laugh we continue to go along for the ride.
The supporting cast is universally good. Jane Curtain has a few nice moments as Peter's mom and JK Simmons is remarkably fresh as his dad. Andy Samberg plays his gay brother, a nice supporting role with some funny moments. This is a smart move for Samberg. His first starring role in "Hot Rod" was a resounding dud, so he appears to be building his career back by taking smaller, more memorable roles in better films. And he continues to provide a lot of laughs on "Saturday Night Live". Jaime Pressly and Jon Favreau are hilarious as Zooey's best friend and her husband. And the rest of the guys who play Peter's potential BFFs are all funny for their moment in the sun.
"I Love You, Man" is a very funny film even with the few wrong steps it takes. Go and buy a ticket.