Conform, Man, Conform
This is gonna sound weird coming from me, the inveterate hater of grossout comedies, but there’s not enough grossout in I Love You, Man. Oh, with one instance of projectile vomiting and a running joke about dog shit, it’s more than my recommended daily allowance of kindergarten humor. But the dude looking for a good grossout will be disappointed.
On the other hand, that male contingent of the moviegoing crowd that has been waiting for the film that tries to push and prod guys to conform to a narrow, cardboard stereotype of modern masculinity in the same way that Hollywood has been trying to mold women into materialistic Barbie dolls in recent years will delight in I Love You, Man, which posits that sweet, kind, considerate, friendly, smart, handsome, successful Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd: Role Models, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) just ain’t man enough. It’s not that he’s gay — his fiancée, Zooey (Rashida Jones: Little Black Book, Full Frontal) brags to her gal pals about what a stud he is, so that’s not it. It’s that he’s a gentleman in a world that no longer recognizes such a state of sophisticated, grownup masculinity.
Not that the movie acknowledges that. Nope: Peter really is, to the mind of writer (with Larry Levin) and director John Hamburg (Along Came Polly), not a proper specimen of modern manhood because he’s not a crude, loud, obnoxious, rude, overgrown frat boy into his 30s. So it sets him up with a series of encounters in an attempt to man him up and make sure he has a proper best man by his wedding day. (Why one of his many female friends couldn’t serve as best “man” isn’t even broached, because, of course, such an instance of nonconformity could not stand in this sadly confined universe.) And so he is teamed up with Sydney Fife (Jason Segal: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Knocked Up), a six-foot-something child who says things like “Society tells us [men] to act civilized, but the truth is we’re animals” and disparages Peter when he’s not behaving in an appropriately dude-ish way to “remove your tampon.”
There is nothing wrong with Peter, of course, except in the warped world of I Love You, Man, and it’s especially sad to see Rudd — who, if he isn’t a Peter Klaven in real life, has staked out this niche for himself onscreen — not allowed to portray this sweet, sexy persona as fully human, instead of somehow lacking. Women who love men — grownup men, that is — should despair at the pathetic, grudging stamp of approval Man gives to Peter only after he’s had some conformity beaten into him. But men should despair of it, too.