When it comes to relationships, Peter Klaven has a problem. It’s not that women don’t like him. In fact, it’s the just opposite. He’s a ladies’ man who intuitively understands women, who speaks their language and who always has a date.
Peter’s “gift,” however, comes with a price: He’s spent so much time in the company of the fairer sex that he’s failed to foster any male friendships.
When he proposes to Zooey, his girlfriend of eight months, Peter’s dearth of dude connections becomes a practical problem. After all, a groom with zero friends makes for a terribly lopsided wedding party.
So with Zooey, her friends, his parents and his brother rooting for him, Peter sets out to drum up some manly camaraderie and find a best man before the nuptials. His tactic is to scout out interesting guys and ask them on “man dates.” After a few crash-and-burn experiences, a chance encounter with a guy at an open house shows potential.
Sydney Fife is everything Peter is not. He’s carefree, bold as brass and comfortable with bodily functions of all types. His straightforward manner immediately disarms Peter, who can’t help but call him up for his next man date.
So begins a friendship that will transform these two guys’ lives—if it doesn’t wreck Peter and Zooey’s wedding first.
Peter and Sydney are perfect foils for each other. Sydney challenges Peter to loosen up and quit being such a nice guy. He also encourages Peter to be honest with himself and others. On the flip side, Peter dares Sydney to grow up and stop loitering in a state of perpetual adolescence. In both cases, these guy friends genuinely try to help each other identify and overcome some significant character flaws. After the inevitable falling out between the two, Peter and Sydney humble themselves and reconcile their differences. Throughout Peter’s quest for masculine interaction, Zooey encourages him to invest in friendships with guys.
Peter moves in with Zooey, and they begin a sexual relationship before getting engaged. (We see the clothed couple in bed making out.) Multiple conversations among various friends parse details of their apparently vigorous sex life. When Peter and Zooey realize that those disclosures have been hurtful to each other, though, they agree to keep private details private.
Sydney has no desire for a permanent romantic relationship. Beautiful divorcées are more his style: sexually available and commitment shy. He scores sex partners like points in a basketball game, and he describes each conquest for Peter’s entertainment. Sydney also verbally details his masturbation habits.
No movie about “man dates” could exist these days without homosexual gags. One such encounter involves Peter and Doug, a man who mistakenly thinks Peter shares his sexual proclivities. Their evening ends with Doug kissing Peter, who pulls away awkwardly. Peter’s brother, Robbie, is also a homosexual—a lifestyle his parents embrace. Robbie brags that he likes to seduce straight men because it’s more of a challenge than bedding fellow homosexuals.
Zooey’s friend Denise and her husband, Barry, have a volatile relationship that regularly includes withholding sex as a means of manipulation. Another good friend, Hailey, is miserably single and willing to jump in bed to snag a man.
Several female characters wear body-hugging outfits. Men are seen changing in a locker room. (They’re all wearing some sort of clothing.) Billboard advertisements show a woman in a thong swimsuit and a man in a tight Speedo.
Sexual slang, including many crude anatomical references, abounds. Sex-related dialogue also includes topics ranging from pubic hair on teenage boys to elderly women using sex toys. Anal and oral sex, orgasms, masturbation, pornography, tampons, losing one’s virginity, genital size and “loud, intense make-up sex” also garner verbal attention.
Sydney tries to intimidate a jogger who’s gotten angry after stepping in droppings left by Sydney’s dog. Sydney rushes at the jogger and roars at him in an attempt to provoke a fight. The other man runs away instead of retaliating. Peter slaps a male co-worker in the face. A guy starts a brawl in the stands at a soccer game. Sydney unwisely tries to punch actor Lou Ferrigno (who portrayed the Hulk in the ’70s TV show), but finds himself in a headlock instead.
The f-word gets about 50 uses, a few of which are in a sexual context. The s-word pops up more than a dozen times. God’s name is taken in vain about 20 times, and vulgarities creep in a dozen or so more. A man uses the word “nizzle” as a euphemism for the n-word. Audiences see at least one obscene gesture.
Nearly every social gathering involves beer and/or mixed drinks. Peter engages in a drinking contest and vomits in his opponent’s face. One character talks about being drunk. Another is a heavy smoker. Sydney refers to having used acid in his past.
A female character refers to her husband’s haircut as a “Jew fro.” Sydney brags about throwing his own feces as a display of animalistic manliness. An extended joke is made of a man’s unwillingness to pass gas because “he’s trying to impress that girl he hasn’t slept with yet.” Another running gag involves a character who advertises his real estate services on urinal deodorizers.
This isn’t the first time Role Models actor Paul Rudd (who plays Peter here) has given me opportunity to state that I am, as a general rule, philosophically opposed to R-rated comedies. Why? Because the content that has to be added to a comedy to earn an R rating is unnecessary and unfunny. Not to mention offensive. Further, these gratuitous elements tend to obscure any praiseworthy messages the filmmakers might hope to communicate.
Those dynamics are especially true of I Love You, Man.
Unlike many of today’s comedic misadventures, this film actually attempts to proffer something substantial as it explores the differences between men and women. It asks the question, “What does it mean to be a man?” And to the film’s credit, we get some sound examples of what a real man is not. For example, the story challenges the popular assumption that a man’s highest goal should be to act like a rutting, reveling teenager for as long as he can get away with it.
Never mind that I just wrote that, though. Because it all gets buried in a man cave full of profanity, sexual dialogue, homosexual allusions and crude humor.