There’s one very common trait to thirtysomething male life – it gets really hard to make friends.
Sports are gone, your wife is your best friend (if you’re lucky), the hangovers hurt more than they used to, and there’s something, well, uncomfortable about one grown man asking another if he wants to go out. Unless it’s The Dude and Walter heading out to bowl.
The painful search for male friendship would seem like a rich vein for comedy. Yet I can’t think of a film that really does so. Which is why a film like “I Love You, Man” – one that belches, scratches, and air guitars its way through this underexposed psychological terrain – is more or less welcome.
Male bonding might be for most males, but it never has been for Peter Klaven (the always solid Paul Rudd). On the brink of marriage, he realizes that he doesn’t have a male friend to be his best man. To make up for it, he goes through an embarrassing series of “man-dates” until he bumps into the uber-cool Sidney (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”’s Jason Segal). They hit it off. They grab a beer. They walk his flatulent dog. They jam to Rush (This is that rare film that acknowledges the central role that “Tom Sawyer” once had in male adolescence.). They live through an inappropriate champagne toast about oral sex. It’s all very funny at times. And then you leave.
As the Judd Apatow Factory has brought the term “Bromance” into use, “I Love You, Man” does a few things invitingly differently. Its women have more brains than mouths. In fact, you get the feeling that this is one of those few bromances that–gasp!–secretly likes its friend’s girlfriend. The film also has the smarts to set up and then deflate some of the conventions of this type of film. It has been around long enough to have clichés open for satire.
I should say, though, in a world of blandly-directed movies, this one is among the blandest. Obviously, director John Hamburg decided to back off, let the script work, and try nothing special. At that last part, he proved successful.