Tuesday, March 24, 2009

You've Got Male

Whenever Stephanie Zacharek gushes, I get concerned. Or at least I should get concerned enough that I avoid seeing the movie she's just lavished praise upon, knowing more than likely that it's something as terrible as I Love You, Man, the latest Judd Apatow wannabe bromedy. But Stephanie's siren song is hard to resist, so I went in skeptical but hoping there would be some good steady laughs and that Paul Rudd's charm would transcend all flaws. Rudd is likable, as he usually is, playing a man engaged to be married who realizes he has no male friends and therefore no Best Man for his wedding. But the movie has been directed by John Hamburg (whose credits include the even more hideous Along Came Polly) in a manner that makes you long for the subtlety of the Zucker brothers. As Pauline Kael might have written, everybody practically walks around with "Wacko" signs across their chests; or in Jason Segel's case, as the slacker-investor who befriends Rudd and insinuates himself into Rudd's relationship, work and life, the words "Borderline Creepy" come to mind.

Reading the inexplicably positive reviews for this thing (Zacharek's not the only perpetrator) I get the sense that some critics are more taken with the concept than the execution. To be sure, I Love You, Man has a great idea for a comedy: that the way men strike up friendships with each other isn't all that different from how they meet women. Unfortunately, Hamburg is far too fixated with jokes involving bodily functions to bother developing ideas around them -- which Apatow, for all the comparisons and criticisms he himself gets, most certainly achieves. Additionally Apatow, always generous with his supporting players, would never waste J.K. Simmons like Hamburg does here (though he is equally capable of wasting his actresses).

Like most raunchy comedies, I Love You, Man also aspires to be heartfelt. Yet nothing in the picture warmed my cockles more than the real-life resolution of the Glenn Kenny/David Edelstein film critic fracas in which the former, in typically passive-aggressive fashion, went from calling Edelstein a "slightly twisted dude" and a "dingus" to becoming BFFs with David E. in little more than 24 hours. (Both are fans of this film.) It's enough of a heart-tugger to inspire a sequel: I Love You, Men. Or maybe just....Meh.

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