No love for ‘I Love You, Man’

David Hohwald

Sometimes it becomes possible to see things crumbling in real life: sandcastles at the beach, an unstable building and, in the case of “I Love You, Man,” the devolution of the comedic genre that Judd Apatow has attempted to bring to the screen for the last half-decade.

The film, surprisingly, has no link to Apatow directly, but in themes and cast, it is highly influenced by comedy’s golden boy.

Unfortunately, director John Hamburg and his team of writers fail to bring anything new or interesting to the table and actually field an offering so shoddy and hastily made that one wonders if the genre may be falling to pieces, running out of material to use.

“I Love You, Man” starts out simple enough: Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) needs to meet some guy friends in his life and explore male friendship. The movie never gets any deeper than that.

There is a lack of any meaningful subplot, and all the viewer is left with is Klaven’s quest for a best man. It just never gets deeper, not even at the end, a sad case of a movie with little to no ambition actually underachieving, in spite of this fact.

The cast, at first glance, seems to be poised to bring home the chuckles, but this is deceiving.

Rudd, normally terrific in supporting roles, is mediocre at trying to carry the film as a lead. He is awkward, confused and aloof, which is fine at the surface level of a character, but here, it is the entire package in the portrayed realtor Peter Klaven. Rudd rarely breaks this assumed persona, disappointing viewers as he sleepwalks through the movie as a comedic non-factor or supplement.

Rashida Jones of “The Office” fame plays Rudd’s fiancé and is actually less interesting. In title, she is the female lead, but in the film, Jones assumes the role of window dressing, asked to simply advance the plot. There is no one in the film that the viewer can relate to or root for at all.

The supporting cast gets better, with the inclusion of Jason Segel, who is the only consistently funny character in the film.

This may be unfair, as Segel draws the lion’s share of the best lines of the movie, but he is the only person who elicits empathy in the entire cast.

Andy Samberg and J.K. Simmons add some laughs when they are on screen, and Jon Favreau actually turns cantankerousness into an art form in a surprisingly good performance. But Jaime Pressly and Sarah Burns fail to match this.

It appears that writing for women is not Hamburg’s thing, because he dehumanizes every female in the entire film.

This is where the major flaw of “I Love You, Man” rears its ugly head: the movie is just poorly written, through and through.

In terms of plot structure, the film has a rough conclusion that fails to tie up all but the most basic elements, much like a paper hastily written at 4 a.m. Similarly, Hamburg fields shallow characters, of whom perhaps only one undergoes a meaningful change.

Comedies are ultimately judged by the laughs they deliver, and this film just barely offers enough to make it an acceptable way to spend 90 minutes.

There are rare moments of comedic insight, but the rest of the movie is a wilderness of body function humor, messed up rhythm and inappropriateness for its own sake.

The most memorable scene may be a poker scene that tries to bring out Rudd’s isolation and lack of social grace slowly with finesse and grace around a poker table that actually devolves into a projectile vomit gag.

“I Love You, Man” may actually be an insult to the concept of lowest common denominator humor.

Apatow brought to the forefront the idea that modern comedies can explore social interactions and isolation with care and comedy, but all John Hamburg brings to the table here is a rushed 90 minute effort that seems like it was filmed off of a roughly drafted script.

The acting is far from stellar, but worse is a script that takes no risks and achieves nothing but a sensible ending with no sub-plots or interesting themes.

“I Love You, Man” is good for a few chuckles, but absolutely nothing else.