I Love You, Man Review
For a Hollywood comedy in 2009, I Love You, Man is all right. It's not a great film. It has little originality and less ambition. It asks the viewer for nothing and delivers in kind. But the bar has been set so pathetically low that movies like this ultimately look better than perhaps they should. They, meaning the Apatow and Apatow-lite collisions of emotionally immature manchildren with sophomoric humor in the pursuit of sweet romance, are flawed with awesome mediocrity but, generally, that seems to often be the best we have right now. As a viewer, I'd like more and I think I deserve more. Don't you deserve more than Paul Rudd as a leading man? Doesn't any loyal movie watcher deserve a film where almost every transition is accompanied by something other than a pop song and an establishing shot? Aren't we good enough to merit charisma instead of awkwardness and chemistry over circumstance? I'd hope so, but the apparently relevant comedies being churned out from the studios have shown a distinct focus for the unremarkable.
Our middlebrow milquetoast here is Peter Klaven (Rudd), a real estate agent in Los Angeles who becomes engaged to girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones) in the film's first scene and spends the rest of the picture on a quest to find a friend to be his best man. The idea is that it's easier for a straight man to establish a romantic relationship with a woman than a platonic one with another male. Fine premise and one that's potentially interesting and often true. Peter first turns to his family, parents played by J.K. Simmons and Jane Curtin and Andy Samberg as the gay brother who nonetheless works for a gym and is far more manly than Peter. A few "man dates" later and Peter has little to show for his trouble other than an open mouth kiss which, for some reason, he didn't immediately reject. Enter, over twenty minutes into the movie, Jason Segel's Sydney Fife, a layabout who cruises open houses for the catering spread when he's not pursuing divorcees or the odd investment deal. If you keep in mind that director John Hamburg's previous feature was the forgettable Ben Stiller-Jennifer Aniston train wreck Along Came Polly, it seems like he's almost remaking the central relationship there with Rudd as Stiller and Segel as Aniston. One plays it safe while the other is a free spirit. Together, it's the Dharma & Greg balance.
So I Love You, Man is basically a romantic comedy where the relationship develops between a pair of heterosexual men. This is less novel than you might think, and savvy viewers can immediately remember any number of buddy movies as well as the more classic examples of male camaraderie like the films of Howard Hawks (Only Angels Have Wings, Red River and Rio Bravo all spring to mind). Almost anything worth recalling will probably tackle these ideas with more sophistication and gravity than what's on display here. The predictability, especially if you've seen the trailer but even if your knowledge going in is limited, becomes a major detriment in this central friendship. The film treats it exactly like a romantic courtship, leaving the viewer distracted from the Peter-Zooey dynamic. Rashida Jones is cute and winsome and the trade-off is a somewhat bloated Jason Segel? And let's not forget the Rush obsession between Peter and Sydney which eats into the former's Sunday night of HBO viewing with Zooey. This is relevant, of course, because men in their thirties sometimes enjoy both the music of Rush and the premium cable offerings of HBO.
Anything that the average viewer can relate to, I guess. That sort of becomes the central theme of I Love You, Man, to its detriment in my opinion. There's more to comedy than perceived truth. Funny isn't necessarily a callback to your own life. Certainly the slick movie sheen applied here should not be seen as some furthering of that everyman appeal. Comedy can flourish with both the affably average male (Jimmy Stewart and Jack Lemmon are perfect examples) and the wimpish weakling (Preston Sturges' use of Eddie Bracken remains an ideal), but I think there absolutely must be something sincere ingrained in the leading man so that the audience both believes his situation and roots for him to overcome it. Paul Rudd, I don't get. In support, in movies like Anchorman or Clueless, he's pleasant enough, but there's just nothing in his eyes. They're tuned to improvisation at all times, giving him zero conviction in the words he's saying since some new ones are primed and ready to go for the next round. I would probably like Paul Rudd more if DVD extra features didn't exist.
Rudd's mere presence hasn't become a negative quite yet so even if he really struggles to carry a movie in terms of screentime and emotional investment the various other factors still warrant some consideration. Hamburg's direction is generic at best. Most of the actors, particularly Simmons and Jaime Pressly as Zooey's friend, are largely wasted. You'll remember other cast members like Samberg and the various comedians in supporting roles as being in the film but won't be able to point out anything of interest they actually did. There's a funny scene with Jon Favreau, playing Pressly's husband, but he already did this sort of character in the Vince Vaughn-Reese Witherspoon crapfest Four Christmases.
I'm not sure what that leaves to praise, but I will say, overall, that I Love You, Man delivers the sort of distraction many potential viewers covet. For over a hundred minutes, you can watch the screen and pleasantly forget about the daily grind. Just as I know that many people wish for this very thing, I'm aware that I and hopefully many others expect more. We expect to be fully, not just somewhat, entertained. We expect a romantic comedy to be either consistently funny or winningly sentimental, if not both. Certainly those potential buyers of home media want a film they can return to again and again for whatever it is they expect from modern entertainment. I Love You, Man is, I'll confess, not what I want from my home viewings, and I'm steadfast in knowing that my twenty or thirty bucks can find a better home. Some of the demographic pining for comedy will perhaps find the movie to their liking, but, again, I'm confident we all deserve a bit more.
I Love You, Man is a DreamWorks film distributed by Paramount.
It's in the widescreen television-friendly 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Colors are fully rendered and bright. Detail is good. As with the film on the whole, there's minimal ambition in the visual arena. This leaves, basically, flesh tones and everyday scenery, and it's all reproduced fairly well in high definition. It's sharp enough, but, really, how clearly do we need to see Paul Rudd and Jason Segel? Not much grain, not much noise either. Overall, I found the image to be fairly good without anything really in the realm of dazzling the viewer. You shouldn't be distracted either by how well or how poorly this movie looks.
Audio is available in an English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track as well as French and Spanish DD 5.1 options. It's nothing special, though it probably shouldn't draw attention to the sound with any frequency. The dialogue is understood without being exceptionally crisp. The weak soundtrack mostly fades into the background. A Rush concert provides the single opportunity for something a little more than conversation, and we get a consistently clear, somewhat robust outing, but still nothing of extreme emphasis. The verdict is a pedestrian track that's fine for its comedy-oriented ambitions.
Extra features on this Blu-ray are lead by a commentary track with director John Hamburg and stars Paul Rudd and Jason Segel. It feels casual, with Rudd and Segel looking for laughs as Hamburg recounts specific memories of the production, and typical of what we've grown to expect from this sort of endeavor. The rest of the bonus material is in high definition and lead by three Deleted Scenes (3:18) and a few more Extended Scenes (12:39). "Extras" (22:25), which is mostly alternate line readings, and a Gag Reel (11:25) continue the same basic idea, as does a red-band ("naughty") theatrical trailer (2:49). Finally, there's a "Making of" (17:29) which is the sort of thing you've probably seen before, only now with more projectile vomiting. If you're dying to see Grandma ride the Sybian, it's supposedly available as an Easter Egg, though I couldn't find it.