51fVV2Loh5L._SCLZZZZZZZ_[1]I Love You, Man (Paramount, 2009)
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Guys are always trying to find new ways of meeting women, but it’s an often-ignored fact that it can be just as difficult for guys to meet guys — at least ones they feel comfortable hanging out with on a regular basis. If, for example, you’re a pop culture writer who moves to a rural part of New England and finds himself surrounded by men who work as plumbers and tree excavators, social gatherings tend to be one long blur of gulped beer and stilted conversation. The standard-issue romantic comedy, meanwhile, is awfully tired — which means John Hamburg’s I Love You, Man, starring Paul Rudd as a lifelong “girl’s guy” in search of platonic male companionship, is a film whose time has come.

Rudd’s character, Los Angeles Realtor Peter Klaven, is a happy guy; in fact, he isn’t even really aware of the sausage deficiency in his social circle until he gets engaged to Zooey (the very funny Rashida Jones) and has to start figuring out who’s going to stand up for him at the wedding — and balance out her gaggle of friends in the bridal party. This leads to a desperate search for a suitable best man — one that finds him fielding potential bromantic companions from his brother (Andy Samberg), the Web, and Zooey herself, but ultimately ends in a chance encounter with Sidney Fife (Jason Segel), a self-described investment consultant whose laid-back demeanor and love of Rush is the perfect match for Peter’s terminal awkwardness.

Like Peter and Sidney, Rudd and Segel make a wonderful team. They both excel at two things — playing likable, easily relatable characters and putting them in painfully embarrassing situations — and given their track record in such side-splittingly filthy Team Apatow comedies as Knocked Up and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, you might go into I Love You, Man expecting more of the same.

Don’t. You’ll only be disappointed.

A couple of stray jokes about oral sex and bodily functions aside, I Love You Man isn’t much like those other comedies at all; in fact, given the long list of talented comedians in the cast (other names include Jon Favreau, Jane Curtin, J.K. Simmons, and Jaime Pressly), the movie is curiously light on belly laughs. What it is, more than anything, is a pleasantly smart and very appealing inversion of the rom-com, complete with a breakup, a wedding, a last-minute confession at the altar. It’s just that most rom-coms don’t have leads as charming, or with as much effortless chemistry, as Rudd and Segel. Rudd gets the majority of the laughs, simply because his character is dropped into more painful situations — the scenes where he tries to come up with cool nicknames or parting lines for Segel will prove excruciatingly familiar to anyone who’s ever spoken without thinking — but only Segel could turn drooling on Lou Ferrigno into an act of comic genius.

At bottom, Rudd and Segel are basically playing exceedingly minor variations on the characters you already know them for, and it isn’t the “howlingly funny” film that Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers promises on the box. It’s just a really nice movie that plays squarely to its stars’ strengths and delivers 100-plus minutes of entertainment. Nothing wrong with that, right?

The Blu-ray comes with the usual smattering of special features (presented in HD), including deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel, a making-of featurette, and commentary from Hamburg, Rudd, and Segel — all of them engaging enough, but not, in all likelihood, worth the $10 price hike from the DVD. Unless you desperately need to see Rudd, Segel, or Jones in hi-def, stick with the last-gen format — and rent it first.

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Jeff Giles

Jeff Giles is the founder and editor-in-chief of Popdose and Dadnabbit, as well as an entertainment writer whose work can be seen at Rotten Tomatoes and a number of other sites. Hey, why not follow him at Twitter while you're at it?

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