Though it’s not hilariously funny, you have to admit there’s something almost groundbreaking about I Love You, Man. This near-originality can be illustrated by one of the movie’s funnier jokes. Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd)-an uptight, soon to be groom who needs to prove to himself that his lack of male friends can be easily remedied-suffers through a flurry of dorky “man dates” before he accidentally meets the roguish Sydney Fife (played by the lumbering yet graceful bear that is Jason Segel). At one point, Syd manages to draw a reticent Peter out of his priggish shell on the topic of masturbation. “Did you use the Internet, a magazine, or what?” he robes. Peter sullenly declares that he did it to a picture of his fiance in a bathing suit. “Your own girlfriend?” screeches Sydney. “That’s disgusting.” The joke is equal parts daring and predictable.
It’s also a good description of this film on the whole. “What a weird concept,” says one of the bride-to-be’s gal pals, who together function as a kind of chorus, speaking of Peter’s obsessive quest for male bonding. But she’s also talking about the movie that has been labeled glibly as a “bromance.” (The production company was developing a script with exactly that title when this one fell into their hands.) It is apt, though. Peter thinks too much for his own good, and Sydney navigates life on pure impulse. Together, clearly, they balance out-though the heavy homoerotic flirtation is where the film’s laughs really originate. I Love You, Man features a comically re-jiggered formula: Boy meets boy, boy looses boy, etcetera, so that in the concluding moments you’ll wonder who’s grooming who as the wacky promised wedding (filmed in Santa Barbara) finally gets underway.
Most people seem to love Rudd here, particularly his verbal mushiness, but I found him quickly irritating. Segel, however, lights up every scene he hogs. But it’s the script that stays with you. And even though it’s an exaggeration to say we feel present at the birth of a genre, it does seem somehow uncomfortably true that the buddy film has suddenly developed into a crush.