One of my favorite aspects of language is that it’s malleable, constantly evolving and changing. One of the beauties of language is that it shifts and modifies to the times by adopting new definitions, words, phrases and slang. Of course, with every pro, there is inevitably a con. Lewis Carroll first used the French term “portmanteau” to mean two words jammed together to make one word in his book Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871). And while this ultimately gave us such marvels as the “spork” and “beefalo,” it also managed to create some of our cultural lexicon’s more obnoxious terms.
Today’s biggest offender (behind the obvious Bennifers and Brangelinas) may be the “bromance,” which describes a non-sexual—yet very close—relationship between two heterosexual males, a word that I’m convinced has dropped our collective IQs a good 10 points. With the word’s sudden pop-culture popularity comes the first “bromantic comedy”: John Hamburg’s I Love You, Man.
The movie follows Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd, Role Models), a prudish, somewhat socially awkward, newly engaged real-estate agent who comes to the surprising realization that he has no close male pals to be the best man at his wedding. It seems that Peter has always just had female friends, so he decides to head out on a series of “man dates” in an attempt to find a best bud.
As we’re shown via the magic of montage, this doesn’t work according to plan. The guys Peter ends up with turn out to be insufferable or, in one case, gay. He’s about to call it quits when he runs into slacker Sydney Fife (Jason Segel, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), a man who turns out to be the complete antithesis of straitlaced Peter. The two hit it off immediately, all of which leads to inevitable complications in Peter’s life, namely with his fiancée Zooey (Rashida Jones, TV’s The Office).
Important lessons are then learned by all involved. Everything is resolved in the normal, unsurprising romantic-comedy fashion. What makes it almost work is the likable nature of the cast and the film’s amiable tone. But this isn’t enough to push the movie past its already limited romcom formula.
A lot of this is due to a strong sense of a lack of effort. A sound supporting cast—including Jon Favreau, the always reliable J.K. Simmons and a surprisingly (and thankfully) subdued Andy Samberg (Hot Rod)—is mostly wasted and horribly underused. At the same time, the jokes usually just involve Peter being socially awkward (and coming across as slightly off-putting in the bargain) and Sydney being a freewheeler and occasionally inappropriate, with little in the way of variation going on. There’s a distinct lack of diversity throughout, something that causes the film to feel like its simply going through the motions till it fills out the requirements of its genre and the remainder of its running time (though a good 15 minutes could have been chopped off).
What it all adds up to is a perfectly likable movie that’s nothing to get too jazzed up about. While this doesn’t completely sink the film, it does nothing to help it stand out. Rated R for pervasive language, including crude and sexual references.