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I Love You, Man (2009): ***½

Directed by John Hamburg

I really think this movie is a hoot, and I might enjoy it far more than some people because it is a very personal film for me. You see, in this movie Paul Rudd basically plays a (slightly) more awkward me.

I, like Rudd's Peter Klaven, have always been more comfortable around women than men. I do not feel comfortable around grownup men. I do not feel comfortable being aggressive or intense or swapping sex stories or talking about sportsball games or other things that "guys" do around each other. The difference between me and Peter is that I'm fine around guys who don't act like "guys."

Peter is just taken a bit more to the extreme. He's the kind of guy who is a serial relationship guy. He pours all of his energy into whatever romantic relationship he's currently in to the point of not being able to develop friendships outside of that relationship. He's friends with his girlfriends' friends. But once he breaks up with his girlfriend, then her friends, well, they're not really his friends anymore, are they?

But now finally Peter has met "the one," and she actually encourages him to go out and get friends of his own. But how?

This movie hinges pretty much entirely on two performances that walk razor edges. Paul Rudd exudes enough awkwardness to be hilarious (his frequent and incredibly lame attempts to come up with nicknames are all brilliant), but is at the same time lovable enough so that you actually like and root for him instead of wanting to shun him for being an annoying pest. He's a really good-hearted guy who just has no idea what he's doing but plugs along anyway, so he's got that underdog appeal going for him. Jason Segel as Sydney Fife, the man Peter eventually befriends, walks an even more delicate line between being an awesomely fun person you'd want to hang out with and an irresponsible asshole you want to punch in the face. Or put in a sleeper hold. His character's honesty and easy-going confidence are like a breath of fresh air compared to most of the aggressive "guys" around.

These characters are joyfully given room to breathe and develop. They're not just in the service of the plot because, well, what plot? It's a movie about two guys becoming friends, so it's basically a series of scenes about them hanging out and getting to know each other and affecting each others' lives. Sure, there are story beats in the movie, but they're allowed to develop organically out of the characters' interactions so nothing at all in the movie seems forced. These guys seem like real people. A little cartoony at times, but who am I to talk? I randomly speak in foreign accents without realizing I'm doing it. A little touch of cartooniness just makes them seem more realistic to me.

It also gives a lot of room for the supporting cast to act out around these solid anchor characters. Jon Favreau is horrifying and hilarious as one of Peter's fiancee's friend's (played by Jaime Pressley herself) husband, who is an overweight, aggressive, asshole. Thomas Lennon plays a man who wants to be more than friends with Peter. Jane Curtin and J.K. Simmons play Peter's parents, and Andy Samberg plays his gay brother who is bored with gay men and has moved on to seducing straight men with astonishing success. Lou Ferigno plays himself. There are cameos by David Krumholtz and Rush. The band. Who actually play a very important part of the story.

And just look at that leprechaun slap-a da bass, mon! You'll see. I'm tellin ya, Paul Rudd plays me in this movie.


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