I Love You, Man
Good news. The mediocre movie is getting a lot better. Raising the forgettable bar without any effort is the second Paul Rudd high/no concept comedy in the last few months, I Love You, Man. With the Role Models DVD release piggybacking the I Love You, Man TV spot and the 2008 copyright date on ILY,M, it most likely means that they were finished around the same time, but the distributor didn’t want to flood the market with too many Paul Rudd movies you won’t remember in a few months.
Structured a lot like last summer’s Will Ferrell/John C. Reilly scream-every-line-at-the-top-of-your-lungs-fest Stepbrothers, wherein a bunch of funny people show up to the set with about 8% of a completed script, containing some basic scene outlines, and so they scrap the entire thing, and just improvise. Sometimes this can be funny when underplayed, such as by one of the current deadpan masters, J.K. Simmons (the editor-in-chief from the Spiderman films as well as a staple of recent Coen brothers projects), who while describing his son, played by SNL’s Andy Samberg, and his early puberty, utters, “kid had a bush like a 40 year-old-Serbian.” But the constant improv creates the major problem with the movie, there’s no momentum or flow between scenes. Writer/Director John Hamburg (Along Came Polly) worries more about structure than Adam McKay did with Stepbrothers, but he solves it with his usual tact of flattening everything, so while the movie isn’t dead, it has a fairly low heartbeat.
When I say a heartbeat, I didn’t necessarily mean the way Hollywood defines heart, which is maudlin pathos and phony sincerity, but that’s what gets applied to I Love You, Man. Paul Rudd is playing the Ben Stiller version of an everyman, stammering, awkward, overly nice, inoffensive and with a rage inside ready to be unleashed at the most narratively inconvenient time. The other important characteristic typical of Stiller’s films and especially Rudd in I Love You, Man is complete and total emasculation. Completely devoted to his fiancée (Rashida Jones), he overhears her and her friends discussing his lack of male friends, and how he probably wouldn’t know who to ask to be his best man. This is an awfully unflattering view of women, suggesting that once they’ve dug their nails in their man and taken away his balls, now they have to construct him to appear socially acceptably macho and masculine.
But not too much macho or fun to be had, because once Rudd goes on a series of man-dates (prefaced by a gay panic guideline instituted) and settles on “wild” Jason Segal, who gets Rudd to speak his mind, Rashida Jones panics and offers a him-or-me ultimatum to create a false third act crisis. Since, in reality, there’s no actual conflict in the film, and Rudd’s problem is stupid and insignificant (he could have just asked his brother to be the best man), all you’re left with is the long list of sketch group comedians with walk-ons. Virtually every member of The Lonely Island (Hot Rod), Broken Lizard (Super Troopers, Beerfest), Human Giant, and The State appears, makes a joke, and then stands in the background for the remainder of the film. Way to take away work from perfectly competent extras, guys.