Are You Man Enough to Say It?

“I Love You, Man” Creates the Perfect Formula for a ‘Bromance’

“I Love You, Man” is totally ludicrous. Man dates? Paul Rudd’s awkward morning-after voicemails? And then the random tidbit about his gay brother who picks up straight men as a fun challenge? The movie is just one absurdity after the next. But director John Hamburg makes it neatly fall together to create a simply funny movie.

It opens with real estate agent Peter Klaven, played by Rudd (“Clueless,” “Knocked Up”), proposing to his girlfriend, Zooey. Although they have been together for only eight months, they apparently live together happily and are totally ready for marriage. Through a few scenes, we learn that Zooey has a clique of lifelong best friends, while Peter, a self-described “girlfriend kind of guy,” has no friends at all. By extension, he has no best man for his wedding.

Suddenly, Peter’s lack of male companionship becomes a glaring deficiency. “I gotta get some [expletive] friends,” he says to no one. Such is the premise of “I Love You, Man.” When chance brings Peter and Sydney Fife, played by Jason Segel (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Knocked Up”), together, Peter senses that this may be The One. You know, in a hetero kind of way.

With Sydney’s pointers and genuine concern, Peter transforms from that straight guy who “totally loves” “The Devil Wears Prada” to a more confident and “manly” version of himself. And, in less perceptible ways, Sydney finds something refreshing and necessary in Peter’s companionship.

I won’t lie. At times the movie feels like a chick flick, what with the new friendship and time spent apart threatening Peter and Zooey’s engagement. But then a dog poops. Or Sydney says something outlandish or crude. It is this juxtaposition – the male bonding over a fart joke, and then the first phone call jitters, the “I love you” and then the “man” – that makes the movie so interesting.

Rudd and Segel successfully blur the lines between gay and straight, girlfriends and homeboys, rules of dating and rules of friendship, and puts those gray areas to the test. At some point you wonder: is Peter more gay when he is the only man (platonically) chitchatting around the water cooler with all the women at work, or is he more gay as he sings aloud on the back of Sydney’s moped as they roam the city? That’s left to the viewer to decide.

Confusion and hilarity aside, I wouldn’t call “I Love You, Man” a home run. First, it reeks of Judd Apatow (the producer who brought you “Superbad” and “The 40 Year Old Virgin”), though he has no hand in this movie. It’s like Six Flags trying to do princesses and talking animals like Disney World does it. They could pull it off, but everyone would see the imitation. (Though, to be fair, Hamburg did the screenplays for “Meet the Parents” and “Zoolander,” so he needs not copy someone else’s comedic style.)

Second, this type of movie does not warrant the nearly two-hour run time. The plot seems unnecessarily stretched out at times. At any rate, Segel and Rudd have great and seemingly effortless chemistry, and the supporting characters are just as entertaining.” I Love You, Man’s” greatest triumph is in its fresh approach to the romantic comedy. The “bromance” genre looks as if it’s here to stay.

4 out of 5 stars