Comedy is a very difficult thing to pull off. The balance between story and comedy is one that seems to be even harder to achieve than some of the most complicated dramas. The problem lies in the fact that comedy is often times so much more subjective than more dramatic elements. Yet, "I Love You, Man" pulls off quite an intricate balance between story and comedy despite the fact that the two often times do not quite work together.
After Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) proposes to his girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones), the realization occurs that he has no best man and no real guy friends in general. So after hearing his new fiance and her friends making fun of him, he begins a quest to find a best man to call his own. After a few mishaps, he finally seems to find a friend in Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) and the resulting relationship begins to cause a few problems with his home life.
What is most interesting is the way in which the movie follows some of the normal romantic comedy conventions, yet applies them to a completely platonic friendship and it seems to work. While this has surely been done before, director John Hamburg ("Along Came Polly") and stars Rudd and Segel are able to keep you interested and laughing. Interestingly, much of the humor seems to exist in its own reality, separate from the needs of the story. Lately many movies under the Apatow brand name have the humor stem from the story situations themselves, "I Love You, Man" seems to break off into tangents at certain points providing plenty of laughter, but a slight disconnect from the story itself. This is certainly not a bad thing, as the two work together so effortlessly that it doesn't create any problems, but given that the story is serviceable on its own, it was an interesting dynamic to experience.
Rudd is absolutely hilarious as the nervous Peter, and some of the funniest moments happen when he literally talks gibberish in an attempt to sound cool. Many of these situations led to a brief moment of silence in the theater everyone tries to figure out what he just said, but the way in which it happens resulted in fits of laughter from just about everyone. And hopefully nobody spoils for you a completely random moment that occurs during a drinking scene near the beginning with Peter, which was possibly the most laugh out loud moment I've had in the theater in a long time. But regardless, the entire cast is excellent from Segel's laid back Sydney to Rashida Jones' Zooey, they all offer something great.
If there's one complaint to be had the movie slows up on a lot of the comedy toward the end, which seems to be the case in a lot of comedies. In an attempt to bring the story to its necessary conclusion, more focus is put on story than on laughter. But as the Catalina Wine Mixer taught us in last year's "Step Brothers", sometimes the crowning moment of the story can offer up plenty of laughs all on its own. The movie certainly picks up in the last few minutes, but there's a period of about 15-20 minutes that barely a chuckle was heard. And I like to chuckle.
I cannot seem to stress enough how excellent many of the comedies have been of the last couple of years. And "I Love You, Man" is no exception. Again it's a movie that has an R-rating and embraces that without being too raunchy or over the top. It's been a few months since a solid comedy has been released, but this is definitely one to see if you're looking for some great comedy. (No offense, Paul Blart. But let's be honest. You just weren't that funny.)