Jerry Seinfeld's TV persona on “Seinfeld” once admitted that he was frequently mistaken for a homosexual, because, he explained, “I'm thin and I'm neat.” Such would seem the predicament of Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd), the nicely-groomed, sweater-clad lead in “I Love You, Man,” but the movie, struck as it is by its own peculiar logic, takes a different view. Regular guys, it would seem, cause women to turn up their noses, while mocha-latte-making momma's boys are the perfect catch.
Perhaps, but the movie only tacitly admits what it really means to suggest: Peter is what women want to turn a man into once they nab him. Therein lies his problem: He was already like that, and therefore lacks the man baggage his woman wants, namely a bunch of buddies to fill in at weddings and fishing trips. Our problem is figuring out which gender is supposed to cheer for the otherwise perfectly content Peter, who goes on a zany quest to satisfy the preconceptions of his fiancAce, Zooey (Rashida Jones), and her terminally unhappy friends.
That's right: a man goes on a hunt for guy friends to make a woman happy. Maybe when you're turning yesterday's catchphrase into today's date movie, explanations aren't necessary — but “I Love You, Man” doesn't try. It has a formula to deliver, like a brick through a living room window.
Worried he'll ruin things by being a clingy husband, Peter bumblingly goes looking for man dates, which lead first to an extended riff on common homophobia humor, and then to Sydney (Jason Segel), a slacker dude living near the beach. The two hit it off despite being an odd couple (what else?), with Sydney showing Peter how to loosen up, and Peter teaching Sydney something the movie is much less clear about.
There's really nothing more to the duo's relationship except antics, a fact unfortunately not understood very well by the filmmakers, who leave the antics hanging while tediously drawing out a patently bogus and insipid conclusion. “I Love You, Man” offers a few decent laughs until then, but think about it too hard and you'll find it isn't very understandable, much less lovable. (R) 110 min. HHIII S