I Love You, Man (In Theatres)

Of late, the “bro-mance” phenomenon has shambled across our cultural landscape. It’s okay for dudes to love dudes now, dude, as long as your junk doesn’t touch. Or something.

Is this progressive? Regressive? I dunno. I consented to seeing I Love You, Man, because I thought it’d provide some grist for the ever-turning Gender Studies mill.

Plus, I saw some mall rats affirm their heterosexuality by standing around the poster and loudly saying “that’s gay.” A challenger approaches!

If you’re looking for frat-pack comedy, you’ll be largely disappointed, since most of the laughs are tepid. Paul Rudd plays an adorable goof who mangles words and flails awkwardly. During a primal scream exercise, his best bestial roar (because man is an animal) sounds like Kermit the Frog having a hissy. Mildly amusing!

However, if you’re going in looking for a typical rom-com, you’ll be satisfied. Well, satisfied-ish. There’s twice the relationship arcs, but only half the conflict!

Peter is a Californian real estate agent with two dreams: massive property development and endless heteronormative bliss with generic fiancée whatshername.

But her besties think it’s weird Peter doesn’t have any male friends. Peter overhears this via a stagey sub-Wilde drawing room set-up. An exploration of the difficult and delicate formation of male-male social bonds ensues.

Sarcasm? Perhaps. The second act really does offer a little insight. “It’s such a weird concept!” our friendless loser laments as he looks for bro-love in all the wrong places. “There are no rules for male friendship!”

He navigates this lawless minefield on a series of “man-dates.” Some are played to the stupid seats, like ‘Octagenarian!’ and ‘Whoops-he’s-gay, unwanted kissing now!’ More interesting are encounters with enthusiastically smarmy dudes and post-fraternity troglodytes.

Eventually he makes pals with Rush-lovin’, free-wheelin’ Sydney. By devoting more time to the joys of masculine society, Peter’s wedding plans sour ever so slightly! He must choose one or the other, only to be BLAH BLAH BLAH. (Seriously, do we need to do this? Is not the standard rom-com plot embedded in our autonomous nervous system at this point?)

For all of its predictability, I Love You, Man does throw some curveballs. So the film is “not as offensive nor as stupid as I feared” and also “sweet but not particularly funny or engaging.” Rent it if you’re bored when it comes out.

Bro! I just totally damned it with faint praise, man!

Michael Collins