We've all assumed at some point while watching a Judd Apatow movie that it would be totally awesome to hang out with any of these dudes. I Love You Man is the movie that gives us that opportunity. For 90 minutes we watch Jason Segel and Paul Rudd sing Rush songs, hang out at the beach and give each other silly nicknames, while a shoestring plot kind of lingers in the corner, getting picked up once in a while when the rote three-act structure calls for it. There's a brilliant concept at the center of the film, but no one really bothers to expand on that to build an actual story.
Whether or not that bothers you will depend on how much you like just hanging with Rudd and Segel, and how patient you can be when some gags wear out their welcome and plot elements come barreling at you with zero subtlety. One of the biggest problems is Rudd's character, despite his typically likable performance. He plays Peter Klaven, a successful L.A. real estate agent with a gorgeous and talented fiance (Rashida Jones), despite the fact that he seemingly has no social skills. Faced with the realization that he has no best friend, and for some reason refusing to make his brother (Andy Samberg) his best man, Peter goes on a series of "man dates," all of them leading to easy jokes and no actual friendships. Finally he meets feckless Sydney (Segel), a guy who lives at the beach, barely works, and encourages Peter to unbutton his shirt, play some air guitar, and learn to be a guy's guy for the first time in his life.
This would be the part of the review where I tell you about the rest of the plot, but there really isn't one. I Love You Man very deliberately follows a classic romantic comedy plot, but it has even less conflict than your typical awful Kate Hudson movie. Peter's fiance is happy he's found a friend, Sydney is an odd but mostly welcome addition to Peter's life, and the friendship looks like a hell of a lot of fun. At the last minute some questionable plot details pop in to make Sydney look like a possible villain, but it feels even more contrived than the man dates Peter went on at the beginning of the movie.
Rudd and Segel are the center of the show, despite serious scene-stealing efforts from Jon Favreau and Jamie Pressly, who play a hilarious squabbling couple. The genuine friendship between Rudd and Segel is clear in every scene, and obvious improvving adds an extra level to their friendship that isn't there in the script. You get the feeling throughout, though, that they're both better than their material; there's not much in I Love You Man that holds up against their brief scenes together in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Aside from the stroke of genius to have Peter trying to sell Lou "the Hulk" Ferrigno's house, writer-director John Hamburg isn't able to add any personality to the proceedings, and strands a whole lot of excellent supporting players-- Jane Curtin, J.K. Simmons, Aziz Ansari, Thomas Lennon-- with criminally little to do. Hamburg knows that Rudd and Segel are the main attraction here, and to his credit he leaves them lots of room-- maybe a little too much-- to do their charming thing. Luckily there's no such thing as too much Jason Segel and Paul Rudd goofing around, but I Love You Man comes dangerously close to it.