There have been a lot of comedies made lately like “I Love You, Man.” Seems like if you are a male comedian in the 21st century, and you’re not Michael Cera or Ricky Gervais, your humor is based on the exhibition of the unbridled Id. Jack Black, Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Sean William Scott, John C. Reilly, Larry the Cable Guy, Kevin James, and Seth Rogen all make their livings by playing some variation of the Man-Child, who has one or both of the following goals in life: 1) To score some sweet booty, and 2) to become a ninja race-car driving rock-star assassin. This is Male Id 101, and for some reason, we find it so funny we can’t get enough of it.
“I Love You, Man” is better than almost all of the recent movies starring the Male Id because it manages to take a step back and consider why we’re so obsessed with this idea. Paul Rudd plays a guy with a severely repressed id. All the girls love him, all his best friends have always been girls, and now that he’s found the One (Rashida Jones,) he’s ready to settle down and be a devoted, attentive, amazing husband. Only Jones finds it a little strange that he doesn’t have any guy friends. So he embarks on a humorous quest to make some friends. He meets people over the internet, his gay brother sets him up, and his mother has some ideas. Of course all of these setups are terrible, if not terribly funny.
Paul Rudd portrays a guy who really has no clue how to hang with the guys. He thinks porn is gross and stays in a Texas Hold ‘Em game while holding 2-7. Worst of all, he can’t hold his liquor. It’s interesting the choices Rudd makes as a comedian: he’s clearly borrowing a page from Michael Cera’s playbook, often starting sentences with great gusto, only to peter out at the end into total bizarreness, and then apologize for whatever it was he just said. Rudd’s not bad, but Cera’s better at it, and watching the technique in another actor’s hands made me appreciate Cera that much more, and remember just how hard comedy really is.
Then, while trying to sell Lou Ferigno (the Hulk’s) palatial estate, Rudd meets Jason Segal. Segal is the unbridled Id. He doesn’t want to buy a movie star’s mansion; he just knows the food at the open house will be good and he’s hoping to meet a horny cougar or two. Segal takes Rudd home – except we never enter or see his house, only his garage, which is full of Man Toys like drum sets, video games, and dart boards. They discover a common love for the Worst Band of All Time (my distinction.) All of a sudden, Rudd has a best friend.
“I Love You, Man” didn’t have me rolling on the theater floor, but it was mildly amusing and less annoying than a lot of romantic comedies. It is pretty smooth and graceful, even if it lacks explosive setups and incredible gags. It also lacks awkward moments and over-earnestness. By the end, though, the English Major in me had taken over, and I was less interested in funny lines than in the symbolism of what was going on.
Without giving the whole movie away (though really, it’s a romcom; how much is there to give away?) let me say that the Fiance and the Best Friend don’t exactly get along, until the Fiance realizes that her man needs his Best Friend, and makes sure he is at the wedding. Now consider: it was Jones who pointed out what was missing in Rudd’s life, and she who motivated him to seek to remedy it. By the end, she won’t marry him without this important piece – Male Id embodied – present and participating. It’s as if she understands that he can’t really be the man she needs unless this disgusting, base, and unpredictable thing is an acknowledged and affirmed part of who he is. Usually, in the movies, especially in comedies, women are emasculating men. Here’s a woman doing just the opposite – empowering her man, calling out his “manliness,” insisting that it is a necessary part of who he is. Startling. And refreshing. It’s this element that lifts “I Love You, Man” head and shoulders above all the other movies like it.
- If you like watching the unbridled male ID on display. Jason Segel gets it done.
- If you’ve started to wonder why so many comedies lately feature the unbridled male Id.
- If you’re about to get married, and need to have a talk about man caves and video game obsessions with your fiance.
- if you’re sick and tired of watching men act like children on movie screens.
- if you’re a woman, and you don’t see any reason why men can’t just grow up and act like civilized human beings – you know, with manners and taste and stuff.