22 June 2010 | moviesleuth2
Gut bustingly funny and actually endearing
When I first heard about this movie, I became a little irritated. The premise seemed to me like a "romantic comedy for gays" except with a few lines to make it a "bromance." It makes sense, as most guys in the target age group (high schoolers and college aged) are quite uncomfortable discussing sexual orientation in any context (Don't believe me? Try raising the topic with your best buddies). It seemed like it was wimping out instead of taking a chance and really making a movie that could make said guys comfortable about this sort of thing.
This may be the film's intention, but it hides it well. The romance between Peter (Paul Rudd) and Zooey (Rashida Jones) is well-integrated and quite important to the story. If anything, it represents a major stepping stone.
I approached this film with much trepidation; I don't especially like Judd Apatow movies. Some of the stuff is funny, but a lot of it is too understated, like Clark Duke in "Sex Drive" or "Kick Ass" (watch the trailers of either one of those movies and when the dorky kid with glasses talks, you'll see what I mean). Worse, Jason Segel wrote and starred in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," a movie of that ilk that I didn't like at all. Fortunately, none of those characteristics made into this movie. The jokes flow naturally and the film has energy and chemistry between the actors. This result is 90+ minutes of absolute hilarity.
Peter (Paul Rudd) has always been a ladies man. Women love him, and he finds them very easy to talk to. That's one of the reasons why Zooey (Rashida Jones) falls head over heels for him, and when he proposes, she accepts. But once wedding plans get underway, he realizes that he has no best guy friends to make up his share of the wedding party. So with his friends encouragement, he sets out to find a new best guy friend. After a few disastrous "man dates," he runs into Sydney (Jason Segel), a fun loving guy with a lot of advice on how to break loose and have fun.
The best thing about this movie is that everything unfolds naturally. True, it follows the familiar beats of the genre, but nothing that happens is contrived. The characters actions are genuine and make sense from what we know about them, and that makes it more honest (not to mention effective.
The leads are great. Paul Rudd tones down the "funny smartass" personality that made him famous and instead acts like a likable guy, albeit without male/male social skills and a penchant for creating bad nicknames and catchphrases. Peter is an easy guy to like, and he has good chemistry with both of his co-stars, Rashida Jones and Jason Segel. Segel is a revelation. He's one of the most likable characters I've seen on screen in a long time. He's easy going and earnest, the type of guy anyone would want as a best friend. However, some of his philosophies on life and social skills come off as scripted, and try as he might, Segel isn't able to make them sound otherwise. Rashida Jones is also very good (looking and sounding like Jessica Alba, only more relaxed). When Peter tells her about Sydney, she's excited for him. If us guys could all have such wives, we'd be in heaven. As the gay brother who is on hand to give advice about "man dating," Andy Samberg is far less irritating and obnoxious than he was in the utterly awful "Hot Rod," which is near the top of my list of one of the worst movies ever made.
John Hamburg is making a comedy, and like the best ones, he lets everything flow naturally. The humor isn't kept on mute, or drained of energy, or kept low-key. It's totally natural, and that's what makes this such a funny, and dare I say it, touching, comedy. I was actually discussing this film with my best guy friend, and the movie reminded us quite strongly of the sort of things we would do when we were in college together. Movies that have establish that kind of a connection with a viewer don't come along very often.