After his supporting roles in comedies like Hot humid american summer, Presenter: The Legend of Ron Bourgogne, and The 40-year-old virgin, it was time for Paul Rudd to get her first leading role in a comedy. This opportunity presented itself in 2008 with Role models, which kicked off a series of holiday celebrations with Rudd headlining. After starring in five traditional studio comedies (plus scoring the leading role in the independent film My silly brother), that part of his career ended in 2013. Don’t cry for Rudd, though. The only reason he stopped was because he had to take the time to headlining Marvel movies and streaming miniseries.
Rudd has had a solid streak in terms of crucial responses to his mainstream comedies compared to other leading men of his ilk. Among these projects, only Dinner for Schmucks received downright terrible reviews, the rest mixed in with downright positive responses. However, it’s not difficult to determine which of these projects is Rudd’s best. I love you man stands head and shoulders above the other vehicles of Rudd’s leading comedy man for countless reasons.
Now, that doesn’t mean other Rudd movies made headlines around this time, like Role models, were inherently bad. It’s just that I love you man was especially perfect for Rudd’s sensitivity on several fronts. For one thing, I love you man allowed Rudd to play an endearing and well-meaning goofball, an archetype the actor still excels at. Dinner for Schmucks did portray a selfish schemer, Man allowed Rudd to play someone who had acting skills.
This comes down to the basic principle of I love you man, who saw Rudd play Peter Klaven, a man who is preparing to get married but has a problem: he has no witnesses. The affable Klaven never had any friends. Now, with time running out until his big day, he wants to make a boyfriend, which ultimately leads to an unexpected friendship with Sydney Fife (Jason segel). While other R-rated comedies deal with sexual exploits or crass subject matter, I love you man talking about a guy who just wants a boyfriend. What a suitably healthy starting point for a film starring a man who takes such immense pleasure in a harmless prank like showing a Mac and me ad nauseum clip on Conan’s various talk shows.
This is Paul Rudd’s rare vehicle where the film itself is as warm as Rudd’s onscreen presence. This is especially evident in the empathy he has for his characters and not just for his protagonist. These include Zooey (Rashida jones), who, unlike most R-rated comedies of this era, isn’t portrayed as a one-note nag, but rather as someone who genuinely cares about their significant other and has a life of their own. Rudd isn’t the only thoughtful ingredient in an otherwise abrasive dude comedy, I love you man feels, as a whole, like a relaxed extension of Rudd’s on-screen character.
Best of all, however, is how I love you man offers Rudd a chance to show he has excellent chemistry with Jason Segel, as Sydney Fife. The duo play well in their comedic exchanges with a realistic relationship that makes their budding friendship credible. Some comedies simply pair two famous comedians because of their notoriety without any consideration as to whether or not sparks will fly in their dynamics. Fortunately, the combination of Rudd and Segel makes for an entertaining duo to watch and guarantees significant star power for the poster.
It also helps that Rudd and Segel are a step up from other times Rudd has teamed up with famous faces in mainstream comedies. In his other featured vehicles, Rudd got to play with funny people like Seann William Scott and Steve carell. However, he was estranged from Scott for long periods of time. Role models and he was overwhelmed by Carell’s extreme madness in Dinner for Schmucks. With I love you man, Rudd and Segel can share the screen, and even with Segel playing someone with a much more outgoing personality, he doesn’t get drowned out by his co-star.
Instead, it turns out to be fun to see Rudd trying to keep up with Segel’s endless enthusiasm and antics. Plus, the script by John Hamburg and Larry Levin adds an intriguing nuance to their dynamics that the actors have fun with. Namely, Fife, despite being the kind of male child that 2000s R-rated comedies idolized, isn’t portrayed as an entirely positive influence on Klaven. Armed with that silent narrative detail, Rudd shows real chops by demonstrating how his character’s new best friend can help him come out of his shell, but also inspire new bad habits. It’s a level of nuance that Rudd handles well and couldn’t handle in something like Dinner for Schmucks.
But above all, I love you man is the funniest of Paul Rudd’s comedy vehicles, perhaps because he is above all concerned with following his own creative battery. Dinner for Schmucks was too wrapped up in a supporting cast stuffed with wacky comedic characters who strayed from director Jay Roach earlier Austin Powers movies. Rudd’s flagship vehicle in 2012 It’s 40, meanwhile, was too indebted to the style of his predecessor Blistered. Both features failed to take the time to properly use Rudd or even just deliver good gags.
I love you man isn’t entirely separate from the influence of other comedies, but it has enough originality to allow Rudd to breathe rather than having this actor try to emulate the hits of past big screen yukfests. In even something that is overall decent like Role models, the detours to conventional storytelling paths seemed counterintuitive to the steamy intent of the proceedings. Meanwhile at I love you man, the constant stream of relatively quirky gags even makes some familiar storytelling staples, like an inevitable break-up and climaxing wedding makeup between the two protagonists, digestible.
Both in its own ingredients and in the way it uses Paul Rudd, I love you man is a beautifully funny comedy, easy going business that ensures viewers will never think of “slamming the bass” the same way again. He’s also a great example of the kind of everyone chipper that Rudd is so good at playing. In an era of male-child-dominated American comedies, Rudd offered something a little different, a big contrast to these characters. These qualities that set it apart can sometimes get lost in its weaker star vehicles. Fortunately, I love you man exists to provide a showcase for man’s gifts as well as keep you laughing constantly for 100 minutes.
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