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By Stina Chyn | March 23, 2009

Just when I thought wedding-centric comedies had run out of narrative steam, writer-director John Hamburg and writer Barry Levin encourage me to reconsider this perspective with their film “I Love You, Man.” Essentially a tribute to Rush (the band) and an exploration of the “the man date,”Hamburg’s comedy revolves around real estate agent Paul Klaven’s (Paul Rudd) mission to befriend a male in time to have a best man at his wedding.

“I Love You, Man” gets down to plot business straight away. Not long after proposing to Zooey (Rashida Jones), his girlfriend of eight months, Peter unintentionally overhears her and her girlfriends gab about how perplexing and potentially problematic it is that he has no close male friends. A man that has no male buddies is a recipe for paranoid clinginess. Punched in the ego and not wanting to become the clingy husband, Peter enlists the help of his mother (Jane Curtin), his younger brother (Andy Samberg), and the internet in order to make some friends. As a man who spent his early adult life so devoted to girlfriends that all male chums “fell by the wayside,” as his younger brother notes, cultivating new friendships is no picnic. Peter’s efforts and willingness to meet up with every recommended candidate are not successful. The right man, Sydney Fife (Jason Segel), doesn’t enter the quest until Peter is on the job at an open house of Lou Ferrigno’s mansion.

Peter is immediately taken by the very tall, frank, and perceptive investor. A friendship blooms quickly between them as somewhat awkward initial meals graduate into Rush songs jam sessions and walks on Venice Beach. Once the film borders on “buddy picture” territory, the romantic comedy voice re-asserts itself, steering the story back to Peter and Zooey’s relationship and whether or not Peter is better off without Sydney as the new best friend.

The collective performance of the supporting cast (Jane Curtin, J.K. Simmons, Jaime Pressly, Jon Favreau, Andy Samberg, Lou Ferrigno, and Thomas Lennon) sustains an entertaining viewing experience. Paul Rudd’s Peter, bearing a hint of Jack Black flavoring, had me laughing so intensely that my stomach hurt and the pen with which I took notes fell out of my hands. The film also stirred a line of pondering that made me think to intertextual distraction: Jason Segel + Paul Rudd + Rush = “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and its puppet rock opera; Rashida Jones ~ Jennifer Love Hewitt; what if the gender roles were reversed and Zooey needed to find a maid of honor?

“I Love You, Man” steps into socially relevant waters in addressing the difficulty that men have in developing platonic relationships with other men. For most of the film’s 104 minutes, the characters have experiences that range from serious to zany. Although I can’t formulate a better resolution to the narrative conflicts, “I Love You, Man” ends on a note that is too cute and conventional to accept.

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