Thursday, August 20, 2009

 

Kindred comic spirits


By Edward Copeland
When Paul Rudd first started to appear in films, I didn't think much of him. Be it Clueless or The Object of My Affection or The Cider House Rules, he left me cold. Granted, it didn't help that I didn't care for the films either, but I found him forgettable.

Then Rudd started appearing in movies such as Wet Hot American Summer and The 40-Year-Old Virgin that showed off his subversive comic spirit and I went from having an indifferent attitude toward him to looking forward to his appearances, big or small, because I knew I'd be rewarded in some ways. Teamed with another favorite of mine, Freaks & Geeks alum Jason Segel, in I Love You, Man, I found rewards a-plenty.


I can't really think of another film that hits upon a similar storyline that I Love You, Man does (and I refuse to employ that word people tried to coin for it), but I think there's a wider look at relationships contained within the film than most gave it at first glance.

Rudd plays Peter Klaven, a Los Angeles realtor who proposes to his live-in girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones). Zooey excitedly shares the news with her bevy of female friends, but Peter has no one really to let in on the joy other than his family (the comic troika of J.K. Simmons, Jane Curtin and Andy Samberg). It seems that Peter has never been one to have close male friends, just bouncing from girlfriend to girlfriend since adolescence.

With the idea of a wedding party heavily weighted on the bride's side and no non-relative as a candidate to be Peter's best man, he embarks on a sudden search for male friends. As one would expect, you can't force friendships, but one does occur naturally when he meets Sydney Fife (Segel) at an open house Peter is holding for the massive home of Lou Ferrigno.

That's basically the story and it is very funny as the brash and painfully honest Sydney brings out new sides to Peter, both good and ill. I laughed more than I have at a movie in a while, especially since almost every role, no matter the size, is cast with comic pros too numerous to mention (personal favorites: Zooey's married friends played by Jon Favreau and Jaime Pressly).

One thought that crossed my mind though is how most people insist that all lives must be lived according to the shapes of the accepted cookie cutters. A man can't be satisfied without male friends. People of either gender can't live happy lives without romantic involvement, etc., etc. While I Love You, Man focuses mainly on the one, other types of lives do dance around the edges.

Directed by John Hamburg who co-wrote the script with Larry Levin, it's only in the last third that I Love You, Man begins to lose a little steam and the final complications and resolutions are predictable, but that didn't prevent me from being touched by them nonetheless.

It's a more successful lead vehicle for Rudd than Role Models, even though that one had more than its share of positives as well. I almost wish Rudd could be my best friend (he's exactly 10 days older than me), but as long as he keeps making me laugh a lot, I'll settle for that.


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