To answer your first question: no, it’s not a Judd Apatow movie. To answer your second question: yeah, it’s still pretty flipping hilarious.
This good-natured yet foul-mouthed comedy of freaks, geeks, and the women who love them will inevitably draw comparisons to The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. The faces are familiar, the thematic material isn’t exactly groundbreaking, and the writer-director, John Hamburg, is an Apatow alum having directed episodes of TV’s Undeclared. But this unpretentious crowd-pleaser is still punchy enough to send packed theaters reeling in riotous laughter—and hey, isn’t that what studio comedies are supposed to do?
The high-concept premise is skillfully set up in the first act, a modest marvel of propulsive exposition made to feel freewheeling and digressive. When buttoned- down boyfriend Peter (Paul Rudd) whips out the engagement ring, girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones) breathlessly accepts. The ecstatic bride-to-be immediately conference-calls her pussy posse: a Miss Lonelyhearts figure (Sarah Burns) and an unhappily married housewife (a fantastically vulgar Jaime Pressly). Both BFFs agree that Peter is a real catch: he’s dependable, suh-oh romantic, and loves to give oral. Check and mate, girl! But when it’s Peter’s turn to spread the good news, he can’t think of anyone to call. “See, Peter’s always been a girlfriend-guy,” explains Robbie (Andy Samberg), Peter’s beer-swilling, fist-bumping, and openly gay kid brother. “All of his guy friends just sort of fell by the wayside.”
So who’s going to be Peter’s best man at his wedding? In an inversion of Hollywood’s stereotypical standbys—shrill minstrelsy shows passing for “gay-friendly” characterizations—Robbie functions as a Butch Eye for the Metro Guy, a bromance guru initiating Peter into the mysteries of platonic male friendship. As our nebbish hero searches for the best man of his dreams, his quest is checkered with the requisite setbacks and ritualistic humiliations, culminating in a montage of bad dates. Everything that can go wrong does. That is, until He walks in the room.
When Peter meets Sydney (Jason Segel) it’s man-crush at first sight. Sydney is the ultimate arrested adolescent, the uncensored free spirit to Peter’s neurotic control freak. After an ice-breaking evening of margaritas and fish tacos, Sydney vespas Peter back to his pad, a kind of post-pubescent Pee-wee’s Playhouse: the vintage toys and gimmicky gadgets are the same, but Chairy has become a La-Z-Boy masturbation throne. The boys’ insta-bro status is quickly cemented over a Rush-inspired prog rock jam session. But as the two men grow closer, Peter’s relationship with his fiancée starts to suffer. Which begs the question: who exactly is the third wheel on this love triangle?
Hamburg’s previous film, Along Came Polly, was a romantic comedy so slavishly formulaic that you’d be tempted to call it academic, if it weren’t simultaneously so stupid. Part of what makes I Love You, Man interesting is that it’s so almost a canned studio comedy (the obligatory gross-out gags, the cheesy orchestral cues) and yet manages to feel fresh and funny in almost every scene.
If the romantic plotline comes up a little short, it’s because Peter and Sydney get all the best dialogue. While their boys’ club banter is agreeably free of misogyny, the complementary scenes between Peter and Zooey don’t have half the originality or spontaneity. Peter’s final declaration of “I love you, man” ultimately feels more heartfelt and meaningful than his rather perfunctory “I do.”