A drearily tame learning-and-growing homosocial comedy camouflaged with projectile vomiting, discreet farting, and uncomfortable pleas for oral sex, I Love You, Man retains the raunch and retrograde sexual politics of Brand Apatow bromances with none of the sporadic belly laughs. Paul Rudd dorks it up as Peter Klaven, an L.A. realtor whose imminent marriage to his sunny fiancée (Rashida Jones) sends him into a panic about his lack of a prospective best man, and launches aggressive attempts to cultivate friends on a disastrous series of man-dates. That Peter’s gay brother, played by a swish-free Andy Samberg, counsels him on being a guy magnet is presumably meant to neutralize the predictably squeamish queer turn taken by one of the meet-ups. Soon Peter falls under the spell of a Venice Beach ladies’ man in cargo shorts (Jason Segel) when they bond over fish tacos and dinosaur rockers Rush. (The band’s presence, along with that of ex-TV Hulk Lou Ferrigno as himself, continues the crude-dude genre’s compulsive doting on pop-culture anachronisms.)
Director and co-writer John Hamburg makes the new pals’ bond a sort of Fight Club seminar in self-reliance conducted by possibly psychotic tantrum-thrower and alleged investment whiz Segel, with anti-consumerism and Nietzschean philosophy replaced by improvised fratboy lingo (“totes magotes”) and jam sessions in Segel’s members-only “man cave.” Rudd works his dimples and dweeby reticence fiercely, but all three principals are written as bubbleheads, the broad gags fizzle with painful sitcom sluggishness, and Jones’s growing resentment of the boys’ burgeoning love makes her the heavy, at least until the telegraphed resolution runs away from the filmmakers’ clear preference for beery arrested development over stifling domesticity. I Love You, Man unconvincingly tries to reconcile adolescent best-buddyism with wedded life where Knocked Up advocated leaving the roomies behind. As for Rudd, his fashioning of a film career now monopolized by the persona of the least threatening bud in the man cave is as inglorious as his character’s willingness to coo over Depp and Binoche in Chocolat with his bride-to-be.