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I Love You, Man: Male pattern badness 

I Love You, Man comes dangerously close to striking out before it even steps up to the plate. First off, the basic premise, about a guy who goes off in search of a male friend to call his own, sounds imbecilic even on paper. Strike one. And then there's the trailer, which, continuing an alarming trend these days, is cut in a shrill fashion to make the movie itself seem like a complete waste of time. Strike two.

But I Love You, Man avoids striking out by remaining true to its own good-natured core. Like most films in the Judd Apatow vein (the man himself wasn't involved with this project, but the principal players are all veterans of his works), it attempts to strike a desirable balance between sweet sincerity and risqué raunch. Yet perhaps more than any of the other films (Knocked Up, Superbad, etc.), it frequently pulls back when it reaches the edge of vulgarity. That's not to say the picture doesn't fully deserve its R rating: With its ample selection of crude language, no one will be mistaking this for Mary Poppins. But by focusing on the sweetest lead character since Steve Carell's 40-year-old virgin, the movie emerges as a possible date-night selection that both sexes can enjoy.

Delivering a performance that should have discerning women of all ages wanting to pinch his cheeks, Paul Rudd stars as Peter Klaven, a nice guy who's always put his energy into his relationships with women. Because of this, he doesn't have a single male friend -- the guy he's closest to is his gay younger brother (nicely played by Andy Samberg) -- so after he proposes to his girlfriend Zooey (immensely appealing Rashida Jones) and realizes he has no one to serve as his best man at their wedding, he sets out on a mission to find an eligible dude. His first few "dates" are disastrous, but he eventually meets Sydney Fife (Jason Segel), who's his complete opposite: disheveled in appearance, able to converse openly about sex, and completely comfortable in his own guy-skin.

It's after Sydney's first appearance that I Love You, Man had the potential to self-destruct. Most filmmakers at this point would turn Sydney into a complete creep or psychopath, a walking nightmare fueled by booze and testosterone. Yet while Sydney does often come across as boorish, he's allowed to remain a fundamentally ordinary guy, and an often decent one at that -- when he borrows several thousand dollars from Peter for what we presume will be a scam, the payoff to this plot strand is both unexpected and appreciated.

Unlike some of the other sweet-and-sour comedies of modern times, I Love You, Man doesn't provide much in the way of large belly laughs. But it's pleasurable enough to paste a smile on the face for the majority of its running time. This joviality extends to the scenes involving former Incredible Hulk star Lou Ferrigno (playing himself) and the sequence featuring the aged rockers from Rush. Granted, Ferrigno's appearance isn't as uproarious as Brett Favre's cameo in There's Something About Mary, and the tribute to Rush isn't half as funny as the ode to KISS in Role Models. But still, there's something about I Love You, Man that clicks, thus making it a respectable role model for future movies of this type.

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