I Love You, Man
is a sweet-vulgar comedy, the kind you'd expect from Judd Apatow, but Apatow isn't connected to the feature, though two of his favorite actors are. Paul Rudd (Role Models
) plays Peter, an easygoing guy whose pending marriage to Zooey (Rashida Jones, formerly of The Office
) requires him to ask someone to be his best man. He is made aware that he has no close male companions, so, with the help of his brother Robbie (Andy Samberg), Peter goes on a search for a best buddy. Robbie, by the way, couldn't serve as best man because of a ruling from the Story Contrivance Association, which, coincidentally, is the parent company of the Midwest Half-Star Corporation.
Anyhow, after a few awkward man-dates, Peter meets Sydney, a free spirit played by Jason Segel of Forgetting Sarah Marshall
, and a new friendship is formed, with Sydney teaching Peter how to loosen up and bond while enjoying some arrested-adolescent hijinx. The film is consistently funny, playing off commonly held perceptions of masculine relationships when not engaging in the requisite gross-out jokes. Paul Rudd, a master at creating seemingly bland characters and gradually revealing the sparks within, does his usual fine work here. Jason Segel is dandy as an iconoclast whose aggression is tempered by his honesty and puppy-dog nature. The rest of the cast is impressive, though the focus on the guys relegates the women to the background. Incidentally, I rounded the movie down to three stars because whenever I give this sort of comedy four stars, I get complaints that "it wasn't as funny as I made it sound."
The Great Buck Howard
is the story of law school drop-out Troy (Colin Hanks), who takes a job as personal assistant to Buck Howard (beautifully played by John Malkovich), a highly-eccentric mentalist (pseudo-psychic magic and some hypnotism) whose career has been on the decline for many years. He was hot stuff a few decades ago - he appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
61 times! - but now he's relegated to small venues in small towns. Buck doesn't let reality intrude on his egocentric world, though, and he travels through life like a touring king in a Wal-Mart, with Troy scurrying to soothe the prickly headliner and clean up his messes. Emily Blunt contributes a spirited turn as a publicist hired by the performer and Tom Hanks, Colin's dad, appears briefly as Troy's dad. Tidy.
Buck Howard is strongly inspired by the Amazing Kreskin (check out www.amazingkreskin.com and get ready to marvel), whose combination of geeky mannerisms and really good tricks fascinated me as a child. I had a fine time at this film and I suspect most of you will enjoy it as well. I rounded it down to three stars instead of up to four because I found the voice-overs by young Hanks gratuitous and, at times, gloppy.
And with that, I finish my brief look at two rewarding three-and-a-half-star movies trapped in a whole-star-or-nothing world. Go see them.