I Love You, Man starts up where He's Just Not into You left off, with some poor emasculated bastard being sacrificed to some clinging, needy, borderline psychotic bitch at the altar. This is from the guy's point of view, however, so no doubt by the end of the movie the pussy-whipped schmuck is going to learn that women are just an obstacle to snacks, beer, and fun with other guys. Just like in the beer and fast-food commercials.
VIDEO: The trailer for I Love You, Man
Or so it seems. The wedding we're watching is, it turns out, just a rehearsal. And though it takes a while to gather steam, John Hamburg's raunchy, often hilarious, usually dead-on satire lampoons the reigning, doltish macho stereotypes with such subtlety and charm that viewers won't even notice their consciousness is being elevated. Man confirms that if any feminist cinema exists in Hollywood, it'll be found not in Chick Flicks like Confessions of a Shopaholic and Sex in the City but rather in the once lowly but rapidly evolving genre that goes by the name of Dick Flick, Buddy Movie, or (increasingly these days) Bromantic Comedy.
An outstanding cast makes it possible. Paul Rudd, who's become a kind of Ben Stiller with the edge off, is Peter Klaven, a sweet but socially awkward LA real-estate agent (perhaps the only one in the trade who fits that description). Peter mixes easily with women ("He's a girlfriend kind of guy"), but in the company of men he flounders with earnest, laughable ineptitude, inventing buddy-like jargon that's cringe-inducing. He decides to make up for lost time by going on blind "man dates" set up by friends and family, the latter including his macho gay brother (Andy Samberg, who tries a little too hard).
Some of the encounters are predictable and only mildly amusing, like the dinner that goes really well until, surprise!, the guy gives him a kiss. Others are predictable and hilarious, like the poker game with the film's reigning asshole (Jon Favreau). "I projectile vomited," Peter reports with a kind of wonder. "That really happens!"
Like Rudd's character in Knocked Up, who has to play fantasy football in secret so he doesn't antagonize his wife, Peter at first keeps this project from fiancée Zooey, who as played by Rashida Jones evokes some of the bewildered supportiveness of Mary Tyler Moore's Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Zooey doesn't get nervous about Peter's new interest until he meets Sydney Fife (Jason Segel). The two hit it off over a fart joke ("I know my farts," Sydney insists) at an open house for the sale of Lou Ferrigno's mansion.
Sydney proves quite a piece of work, one of the more engaging comic creations of recent years, falling loosely into the anarchistic manchild tradition of such late-'60s/early-'70s British comedies as Morgan, TheMagic Christian, and The Ruling Class, But that doesn't explain his fascination with the band Rush, his taste for Ugg boots, or his refusal to pick up after his dog. Nonetheless, he fascinates Peter, and they bond in a bliss-montage-addled dynamic that verges on homo-eroticism. This sets off the inevitable rift with Zooey, a conflict with a mordantly funny, wistfully heartbreaking resolution. The choice isn't really between girls and guys — it's between adolescence and growing up.