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True bromance: Rudd, Segel
hit it off in 'I Love You, Man'

I Love You, Man (R)

Three stars out of four

"I Love You, Man" isn't great. But it's certainly a worthy addition to the recent string of winning adult romantic comedies, if only for the reason that the two leads are straight men - both literally and figuratively.

In recent years, the terms "bromance" and "man date" have crept into the American lexicon and filled a much needed void. When the relationship between two heterosexual adult men doesn't fall into drinking/hunting/sports fan/buddy territory, either term works. As good as they usually are at capitalizing on societal trends, it's taken Hollywood an inordinately long time to make a movie about this particularly fascinating subject.

Peter (Paul Rudd) and Sidney (Jason Segel) couldn't be more different. Peter is a meek, fledgling real estate agent with a serious case of fumble mouth. Even though he's engaged to the beautiful and even-tempered Zooey (Rashida Jones, "The Office"), Peter's effete mannerisms and passive personality might give some people cause to think he was gay.

Sydney, on the other hand, is a Venice Beach slacker working as a "consultant" and is the quietly confident kind of guy women adore and men envy. Unlike Peter - who has never had any close male friends - the perpetually adolescent Sydney has and abundance but is slowly losing them by attrition to marriage and adult responsibilities.

After a handful of failed set-ups engineered to land Peter a guy friend, he meets Sydney at an open house. Peter's having a hard time selling actor Lou Ferrigno's hilltop mansion and Sydney - there solely for the food and any recently divorced rich woman - appears to be just what Peter's looking for in a man.

By the sheer nature of the premise, this could have turned into one long and unimaginative string of bad gay jokes, yet director John Hamburg and co-writer Larry Levin admirably resist the temptation. The filmmakers do address the gay issue, but in a most clever and original way.

Peter's brother Robbie (Andy Samberg) is gay but never acts swishy or feminine. In their handful of scenes together, it is younger brother Robbie who provides Peter with the big brother guy advice and not only is it deadly accurate, it's hysterically funny. As spot-on as Hamburg and Levin are with this facet of the story, they noticeably drop the ball elsewhere.

At the start of the third act, it becomes apparent the filmmakers are following the stock boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back blueprint - times two. They also overemphasize Peter's nervous stammering. It's funny once or maybe twice, but not 20 times.

Performances across the board are all excellent. Rudd mixes a little Tom Hanks, some Steve Martin and a bit of Albert Brooks to great effect. Segel is the exact opposite of his "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" dweeb. Jones deftly avoids the shrill girlfriend posturing while Jamie Pressly and Jon Favreau regularly steal scenes as a constantly bickering married couple.

Although he is not affiliated with the production, Judd Apatow's stylistic fingerprints are all over it. Both Rudd and Segel are longtime Apatow associates and this only adds to that perception.

Apatow's movies - and those like them - never stray far from the same basic, tried and true formula. They're not very innovative, but they also never fail in delivering the comic goods. (Paramount)

E-mail Michael Clark at clarkwriter@mindspring.com.