I understand that I fit an archetype. I’m a somewhat intelligent slacker dude who likes comedy. I’m the Judd Apatow dream audience. And I do like Apatow. A lot. Knocked Up, Achorman, Superbad, 40 Year Old Virgin, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall all are in my list of top 100 movies. (And I do have that list). That being said, I am a person with free will and therefore will not like everything that throat fucks me because I am part of a specific group of people.
So, I Love You, Man just came out. I was excited. I assumed it was going to be fantastic and I wanted to like this movie so bad because I love Jason Segel hardcore and love Paul Rudd just as much as everyone else in the world does (aka hardcore). But this movie was not reminiscent of these actors other screen-adventures, instead it reminded me of the writers’ other attempts at entertainment. The screenplay was written by two men who are best known for Along Came Polly, Meet the Parents, Dr. Doolittle, and Zoolander. Take out that last one and you’ve got movies whose combined entertainment appeal is equal to a Kevin Federline documentary. Besides Zoolander, none of those movies have even come close to approaching my lists.
This cast did perform admirably, but that’s to be expected when that cast includes Rashida Jones (Karen from The Office), Jane Curtin (The woman who invented the coneheads), Andy Samberg (Dick in a box/I’m on a boat), JK Simmons (Juno’s dad), Jon Favreau (Swingers), Jamie Pressley (My Name is Earl), Aziz Ansari, and Jo Lo Truglio (Both brilliant comedians who you should look up if you don’t know them). The writing, however, was equivalent to someone pissing lighter fluid and vinegar into your mouth. Keep in mind that I have taken shots of balsamic for fun. What I mean by this is that there were parts of this movie that I absolutely adored: Paul Rudd’s character struggling to spontaneously nickname his new friend is adorably hilarious. There were also parts that bored me to tears of shit. Most of the interactions between Rudd and Segel were beautifully done, but the reason I had been excited for the release of this movie for so long was not simply for the comedic stylings of Jason and Paul – I own Knocked Up and have friends who have Freaks and Geeks, and I was not nearly as excited for Role Models even though that was partially written by my favorite writer – but rather, the reason was because this movie seemed like it would be head over heels above the other dudeomedies by virtue of the fact that this seemed to be a self analysis of the interactions these movies tend to bromanticize. A meta comedy of guygantic broportions, if you will. And I’m a sucker for anything meta.
I saw this movie as an opportunity to analyze how friendships can both help and hinder (both bros and cons) a relationship, and do this in a funny way. The way friendships change the dynamic of a relationship is rich as a source of comedy because it has the possibility of simultaneously being funny and being interesting in its analysis of what role sex plays/doesn’t play in defining what is a relationship. Knocked Up does this well a couple of times. When Seth Rogan’s character finally calls Katherine Heigl’s character and his dudes are ludely humping each others’ faces in anticipation of their boy “getting some,” we are able to both laugh and understand on a deeper level the immaturity that drives this group closer together (which in turn makes women an unnecessary part of their life – Martin Starr’s character is the only one with a girlfriend and is also the one that is made fun of most often). Similarly when Paul Rudd and Rogan are in the hotel room high on shrooms and Rudd is discussing the many different types of chair that are available to him yet can’t shake the fact that he is pushing away his wife because he doesn’t like himself enough to let someone love him, we again laugh and think simultaneously. Another example is in Superbad when Jonah Hill and Michael Cera lie face to face after another night of going poonless and play with each others hair like high kittens with a ball of yarn, and repeat “I love you man, I just want to go to the rooftops and scream it.” Once again we laugh and analyze the nature of this relationship concurrently.
I Love You, Man succeeds in making you laugh and making you analyze the nature of relationships between hetromales (though with very obvious analysis), but it does these things separately. This seems especially lazy to me because the concept is so ripe with opportunity for concurrent analysis/laughter. More importantly I have just justified my oil and vinegar metaphor from earlier.
The most depressing part of this separation is that the laughter parts are relegated to the men and the thoughtful relationship analysis is relegated to when vaginae grace the screen. This is especially disheartening considering this movie features three of this country’s finest comedic actresses in Rashida Jones, Jane Curtin, and Jamie Pressley. It’s only the other girl who has any lines that can be played for laughs and the entire basis for her comedy is her inability to feel whole without a man in her life. This waste of comedic talent is only made worse by the obvious male guilt that the writers fall into. I will readily admit that Apatow’s productions (especially Rogan written ones) do not spend much effort on their female characters and suffer because of it, but their lack of femalia comes from a lack of trying as opposed to a boring, ultimately sexist, effort to include women. The writers of I Love You, Man must know that they have trouble writing funny women so they decided to write a bunch of unfunny ones into a comedy movie, which is incredibly counterproductive. Whereas every male side character is a fully realized punchline machine, the women are consistently playing the strait-man foil to their male counterparts. While their attempt at a solution by giving women equal screen time shows a conscious effort to appear less sexist, it falls flat and only manages to make the movie boring. Jamie Pressley is a much better comedian and actor than Jon Favreau, but you would have no idea from this movie where Faveau gets to take every mundane sexual line that Pressley makes and turn it into a joke about how awesome it is to have a penis.
I’m disappointed. Disappointed in Rudd and Segel for being in a movie that separates so distinctly comedy from thoughtful analysis and even more disappointed in Rashida Jones for allowing her self to be completely unfunny for an entire movie. So despite the fact that this movie has an entire scene dedicated to the explanation of a jerk-off station in a house, I found this movie boring for the most part. I like my comedy to be a vehicle for thinking rather than a side-note to keep a dull story interesting.
This movie will not go on my list of top 100 movies. Speaking of lists… I made a list recently which I’d like to share. This is my list of my top 10 CILFs (Characters I’d like to fuck) in order:
1) Annie Hall (Diane Keaton: Annie Hall)
2) Liz Lemon (Tina Fey: 30 Rock)
3) Miri (Elizabeth Banks: Zack and Miri Make a Porno)
4) Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus: Seinfeld)
5) Maggie Jacobs (Ashley Jensen: Extras)
6) Beth (Janene Garafalo: Wet Hot American Summer)
7) Maxine Lund (Catherine Keener: Being John Malkovich)
8 ) Sweet Lime/Rita (Amara Karan: The Darjeeling Limited)
9) Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal: Stranger Than Fiction)
10) Catherine (Gwyneth Paltrow: Proof)
I need some more Black girls on this list.
Related side note: I just saw two guys hurling a frisbee at each other in the cold, near-rain outside. They would cast the frisbee toward their friend and it would land several paces away, then the friend would reluctantly trot toward the frisbee and repeat the action. I wanted to tell them that they didn’t have to fit their archetype so hard; just because they were wearing the same athletic shorts for the tenth day in a row and their facial hair looked like someone had given an etch a sketch to someone with Parkinson’s, didn’t mean that they had to throw frisbee. I wanted to scream out: “I didn’t like I Love You, Man, you can go inside and enjoy the warmth of a notebook computer overheating on your lap.”