I'm starting to think Paul Rudd is following me around.
The first inkling I got of this was during a viewing of Role Models last year. After his character's fourth or fifth tirade, this time arguing over the name of a song, I turned to my movie pal and said, "Oh, my God, that's me!" To which she replied, "That's just what I was thinking!"
Notice how I said my movie pal was a "she," because shortly after, I saw the first trailer for I Love You, Man, in which Paul Rudd plays a guy who is kind of a wuss and has only ever had strong friendships with females. Damnit, that's me again! Of course, when Paul Rudd is me, he gets to go out with women like Elizabeth Banks and Rashida Jones. When I'm me...well, I have a pretty awesome cat.
I Love You, Man is the new film from writer/director John Hamburg (Along Came Polly, TV's Undeclared), and though it's still too early in 2009 to say it's the funniest movie of the year, it's definitely the funniest so far. It's been a while since I've laughed this boisterously and so often while sitting in a movie theater.
Paul Rudd stars as Peter Klaven, a somewhat meek real-estate man who has just become engaged to his lovely girlfriend, Zooey (Rashida Jones). When Zooey realizes that Peter has no close friends, particularly of the male variety, her girlfriends (led by Jaime Pressly and Sarah Burns) warn her that this is a recipe for disaster, that Peter will end up being a clingy, needy husband. Determined to prevent this, Peter departs on a mission to get out there, mingle, and form some dude relationships.
Naturally, the early attempts lead to plenty of fail. Projectile vomiting, mistaken gayness, and general creepiness plague Peter's first "man dates." These sequences, some of them set up by his gay brother (Andy Samberg) and clueless mother (Jane Curtin), are a fun twist on the usual rundown we see in romantic comedies, which is largely Hamburg and co-writer Larry Levin's point. In the way Hot Fuzz subverted the buddy cop movie by bringing the underlying homoeroticism to the surface, so too is I Love You, Man a hysterical subversion of the rom-com. You could almost call it the bromance version of Along Came Polly. Geez, now that I think about it, Jason Segel is Jennifer Aniston in this. Segel's Sydney character is even prone to wear a scarf the way Polly was! And Polly's ferret is now Sydney's pug/beagle crossbreed named for Anwar Sadat!
Peter and Sydney meet at Peter's open house for Lou Ferrigno's Los Angeles mansion, which is Peter's move into the big leagues, an upgrade from his normal small apartments and bungalows. The two become fast friends despite being polar opposites. Sydney is outgoing, open, fearless, a total man's man. He takes Peter under his wing and helps him to open up, to be more honest and masculine. They discuss women, share meals, and play Rush songs together. It's guy love at first sight. And it's all great until Zooey starts to wonder if the pals are maybe getting too close.
I don't want to oversell it here, but all of the elements of I Love You, Man come together perfectly and hum like a fine-tuned machine. The writing is clever and raunchy, and Paul Rudd and Jason Segel make a great pair. The two clearly have a love of language and enjoy riffing off each other, bouncing odd turns of phrase and mispronunciations back and forth. They are also both shameless physical comedians who aren't afraid to dive into a barf joke or play some ridiculous air guitar. Both actors are confident enough to sell just about any gag, regardless of how off the wall it is.
In their efforts, Rudd and Segel are backed by an impressive supporting cast. In addition to Pressly, Jones, and Curtin, the movie also features Jon Favreau, J.K. Simmons, Human Giant's Rob Huebel and Aziz Ansari, and State-alumni Joe Lo Truglio and Thomas Lennon in bit parts. As any great cast should, these guys all provide something different for the leads to play off, opening new doors to new laughs. If this comedy were a house, that house would have many rooms, and there would be something different yet equally hysterical in each one.
I Love You, Man is a movie that knows what it wants and relentlessly pursues it. Lucky for you, what it wants is laughs. Expect to hand over quite a few.
And, Paul Rudd? I'm watching you!