Make no mistake, I enjoy a good comedy. I just don't laugh much. I smile, I chuckle, but rarely do I laugh out loud. So imagine my surprise (and delight) when I found myself in stitches several times during John Hamburg's goofy, gentle, raunchy, and deceptively smart comedy, 'I Love You, Man.' This is one funny film that balances almost nonstop hilarity with pinpoint insights into both the male psyche and the unique way guys interrelate. And with such likeable, talented actors fueling the movie's engine, it's tough for any dude to resist its endearing bro-mantic charms.
Perhaps 'I Love You, Man' captivates me most because I identify so closely with its main character. Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) is a "girlfriend guy," a heterosexual, thirtysomething L.A. realtor whose sensitive, sophisticated personality and sharp wit attract more lady friends than regular joes. Having a bevy of gal pals with whom he can share personal details or discuss favorite films like 'The Devil Wears Prada' and 'Chocolat' has never bothered him before, but after he pops the question to Zooey (Rashida Jones) and she begins to assemble her wedding party, it becomes glaringly clear Peter doesn't possess the requisite cadre of close male friends to stand up with him at the altar. To make matters worse, he overhears Zooey's friends worrying he may become a "clingy," dependent husband if he doesn't develop outside relationships.
So poor Peter embarks on a serious buddy quest. His gay (and ironically more masculine) brother, Robbie (Andy Samberg), suggests a series of "man-dates," and Peter gamely fixes himself up with an assortment of quirky specimens. No one clicks with him, however, until Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) wanders into an open house Peter is hosting at the estate of former TV 'Hulk' Lou Ferrigno. The two immediately hit it off, exchange business cards, and go through the awkward building rituals of any new relationship. Though Sydney is Peter's polar opposite – brutally honest, ultra laid back, lacking in social graces, and, yes, immature – he coaxes the uptight, insecure realtor out of his shell while giving him a crash course in male bonding. At first, Zooey is thrilled Peter has found a comrade-in-arms, but as the friendship intensifies, she begins to feel left out, and Peter, helplessly caught between them, discovers the difficulty of managing two very close mates.
Packed with priceless quips and goofball antics galore, 'I Love You, Man' scores high on the laugh meter, but it's so much more than a lowbrow, Neanderthal farce. Hamburg's film subtly taps into a guy's very real, deep-seeded need for close male companionship, and shows how rare and special it is to find that one true friend to trust, confide in, hang out with, display affection for, and most of all, be yourself with. It's a tricky subject that could easily go off the rails, yet the screenplay (by Hamburg and Larry Levin) tackles it in a straightforward manner filled with humor, honesty, and a touching sweetness. Though crass, crude jokes and frank sexual references abound, Hamburg presents it all as part of America's indigenous man-culture, which heightens the hilarity and dilutes the offensive overtones just enough.
Rudd is one of Hollywood's finest comic actors, and he's been a second (or third) banana for far too long. 'I Love You, Man' at last offers him a tailor-made role and, like the recent 'Role Models,' thrusts him into the spotlight where he belongs. Whether he's trying (and failing) to be cool, adopting a pseudo-macho persona, wriggling out of an uncomfortable situation, or in the moments when he lets his guard down and allows his true essence to shine through, Rudd is always so natural and believable, and perfectly embodies the qualities that make Peter Klaven such a relatable character.
Though I tend to run hot and cold with Segel, he snared me here, deftly balancing Sydney's rough edges and annoying idiosyncrasies with a genuine sincerity that keeps us in his corner throughout the film. Jones is also quite winning as Zooey, and the supporting cast, featuring such stalwart clowns as Samberg, Jane Curtin, J.K. Simmons, and especially Jaime Pressly and Jon Favreau (who almost steal the film as a bickering married couple), helps maintain the peppy pace while infusing the story with spicy accents.
'I Love You, Man' instantly qualifies as one of the year's funniest films, and may one day stake its claim as cinema's definitive bro-mance. In our often homophobic society, movies that tackle male bonding often do so in a standoffish manner, yet the humor in 'I Love You, Man' takes the edge off any uncomfortable moments without trivializing the tender emotion lurking underneath. Hamburg strikes just the right tone, and the result is a very fulfilling and surprisingly perceptive comedy. See it with a bro you love.
'I Love You, Man' arrives on Blu-ray sporting a clean, crisp 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer with well-balanced color, sharp details, and a faint grain structure that lends the image a pleasing filmic appearance. Hues, especially during the closing scenes in Santa Barbara, possess just enough vibrancy to attract the eye, but never look artificial, and fleshtones are spot-on at all times. Well-defined facial features enhance intimacy, and fabrics exhibit good texture. Blacks are deep enough, but not especially rich, and shadows never obscure background objects.
While no digital enhancements disrupt the image, I did feel the picture often looked a shade too bright. On the whole, however, contrast is properly pitched, adding nice depth and weight, but dimensionality comes at a premium. This is not a knock-your-socks-off presentation, but rather a smooth, natural-looking effort that serves the material well.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is a bit of a disappointment. Though 'I Love You, Man' doesn't set off any sonic fireworks – no explosions, car chases, or gun battles – the mix sounds slightly muted, and doesn't take advantage of its multi-channel capabilities. The audio is always clear, but never comes alive the way a lossless track should. Missed opportunities for ambient action abound during multiple outdoor scenes, keeping the rears quiet and flattening out L.A.'s vibrant atmosphere. Only during the concert sequences featuring the legendary band Rush does the sound perk up, widening its scope and achieving a palpable surround feel.
Most of the action is predictably anchored up front, and there's not much stereo separation to jazz it up. Dialogue is well prioritized and easy to understand, and the lack of any substantive bass keeps the mix one-dimensional. Though this is perfectly serviceable sound that suits the film, there's little warmth, texture, or detail to enhance the experience.
'I Love You, Man' features just what fans would expect from a disc of this sort – lots of outtakes, bloopers, and other fun material – all in HD.
'I Love You, Man' is a bro-mantic dream come true. Crude and juvenile on the outside, warm and sweet on the inside, and funny all over, this light, wacky, yet oh-so-true comedy will keep you laughing through repeated replays. A slick video transfer, adequate audio, and a bunch of amusing extras brighten this Blu-ray and make it a slam-dunk for those man enough to appreciate its raunchy humor and subtle emotion. Recommended.
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