Paul Rudd and Jason Segel, last seen together in the appealing Forgetting Sarah Marshall, give male bonding a crudely going over in I Love You, Man.
It's actually that mixture of the sweet and saucy that generally succeeds under the relatively understated direction of John Hamburg (Along Came Polly and co-writer of Meet the Parents). It helps, too, that Rudd and Segel come from the Judd Apatow factory, as at times it seems like a spinoff from Knocked Up with an improvisational element to its humorous variety.
The film's premise works from the fact that Rudd's metrosexual Peter, a realtor who enjoys fencing in his downtime, doesn't have any real close guy friends. It complicates things for girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones of TV's "The Office") who hangs out with plenty of girlfriends and wants him to have a best man after Peter, a "girlfriend guy", proposes to her.
At the dinner table, it's pretty clear that much of the support for Peter comes from his parents (Jane Curtin and J.K. Simmons) and gay younger personal trainer brother Rob (Andy Samberg of TV's "Saturday Night Live" and Hot Rod). Rob advises Peter to go on a series of "man dates" to find the right best man, as Zooey agrees that having male friendship is important to a more fulfilling life.
Segel's honest and direct Sydney, a seemingly successful investment guy (often seen donning a scarf), comes into contact with Peter during an open house for the latter as much of the movie has him trying to sell the luxurious home of bodybuilder/actor Lou Ferrigno. Sydney seems to have a knack about people and their quirks, those who may be the real deal, posers, even picking up on the gastrointestinal.
I Love You, Man then has fun with how this laid back man's man affects Peter's life, complicating his impending nuptials. Sydney takes him into his "man cave" where they'll eventually jam to Rush (Peter can play the bass) and later see them live. And, Peter's appreciation for things that the opposite sex gravitates toward, like the movie Chocolat, will have an effect on the somewhat enigmatic Sydney.
Hamburg does well to let the union of these unlike guys have an awkwardly endearing quality, especially in the nicknames they bestow on one another. Finding the right comfortable level is key, especially to the unrefined and sensitive Peter, whom Rudd handles in a droll way to increase his testosterone in figurative sense. Segel lets more hang out verbally here than in Sarah Marshall and it gives Rudd a comedic boost, though Peter has already projected much when with Jon Favreau as the abrasive, unhappy hubby of one of Zooey's comely girlfriends (Jamie Pressly) and Thomas Lennon as the effete Doug.
The look of Man is maybe a little too drab, and the latter sections aren't as well-paced as what preceded them. Still, as a whole, it cobbles together the better elements of pictures like You, Me, and Dupree working enjoyably off how uncomfortable it can be to loosen up.
The target audience will like Sydney's toast at an engagement dinner and the stuff with his dog (named Anwar Sadat) on the beach before an air of predictability takes over even before a choice encounter with Ferrigno himself. Segel and Rudd are on a roll, especially for the latter after Role Models, as Spring Breakers will find this a rudely risible investment (check out the billboards) often outrageously managed from stereotypes and preconceptions.