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'I Love You, Man' and the rules of male friendship

Go ahead and cement that bond, but not before you know how the bro dance is done.

March 23, 2009|Glenn Whipp

Midway through "I Love You, Man," L.A. real estate agent Peter, played by Paul Rudd, wonders how quickly he can phone someone he just met. No, it's not a girl -- Peter's engaged. It's just that Peter, feeling like a "weirdo," needs a best man for his wedding party. And this buddy-less man -- who's always been a "girlfriend guy" -- is having a tough time navigating his way around the emotional land mines of the dude universe.

"I'm really nervous," Peter frets in one scene in the movie, which opened Friday and took in $18 million over the weekend. "There are no rules for male friendships."

No rules for male friendships? Has Peter not been to the movies recently? Just going to Rudd's own past comedies would fill a book of rules.

Then again, Peter's favorite movie is "The Devil Wears Prada," so we'll cut the guy some slack and offer the following New Cinematic Rules for Male Friendship as defined by comedy kingpin Judd Apatow and his acolytes.

Rule 1

Sharing fun, challenging and intellectually engaging activities can strengthen friendships.

Thoughts: This can encompass a broad range of experiences, including business ventures (the boys' Flesh of the Stars website in "Knocked Up"), fine music (Rudd and Jason Segel's characters' jam to Rush in "I Love You, Man"), carpentry (Will Ferrell's Brennan and John C. Reilly's Dale building bunk beds in "Step Brothers"), the simple pleasures of a good episode of "227" ("Pineapple Express") and the creative use of a hollowed-out apple ("The 40-Year-Old Virgin").

The point is: Male friendships need not solely revolve around sports and beer. In fact, in today's movie world, those guys are the losers to be mocked and avoided.

Rule 2

Friends are optimists, not naysayers.

Thoughts: Without Kumar, Harold would still be searching for White Castle. Without the sage advice from the gang at SmartTech, Andy would now be a 44-year-old virgin. Without a little prodding, Carl (Jim Carrey) would still be saying no instead of being a "Yes Man."

The point is: No one likes to be around negative energy. If the dude doesn't like Bob Marley, tell him "peace out" and move on.

Rule 3

Friends carry each other.

Thoughts: This rule can often be applied literally, as when Michael Cera's Evan hauls Jonah Hill's Seth away from the cops in "Superbad" or when Dale (Seth Rogen), sans pants, carries Saul (James Franco) out of the burning pot warehouse at the end of "Pineapple Express." But since unconsciousness does not occur in real life as often as we might like, friends must remember to support each other during waking moments too. When Segel's Sydney befriends Peter in "I Love You, Man," he urges Peter's fiancee to "give it back" in the bedroom. That this admonition comes publicly during a wedding rehearsal dinner is beside the point. Be a wingman, brother.

Rule 4

Friends accept friends how they are. Even when alerting the authorities might be the more prudent call.

Thoughts: In today's movie male bonding, delusional behavior isn't an aberration to be frowned upon. A little nuttiness (read: insanity) can be an effective coping technique for the indignities (read: growing up) the world has to offer.

The point is: If your friends are 40 years old and still living at home ("Step Brothers"), don't try to change them. Buy them a case of Fruit Roll-Ups instead. If your buddy is a heavily medicated mall cop looking to join the police force (Seth Rogen's upcoming "Observe and Report"), you pat him on the head and hand him some pepper spray. And if your wingman gets a fake ID with the name McLovin on it . . . well, you can tell him he's an idiot -- but then you ask him to go score some beer.

Rule 5

Friends make an effort to stay in touch.

Thoughts: "Why don't you just call him?" Peter's fiancee asks him, trying to patch the communication breakdown between him and Sydney. The answer: "Because guys don't do that."

Tell that to Vince Vaughn who, as Beanie in "Old School," takes time away from work and family to help Mitch (Luke Wilson) rebound from a bad breakup.

"You think I like avoiding my wife and kids so I can hang out with 19-year-old girls all day?" Beanie asks after a particularly intense night of trying to readjust Mitch to the rigors of the single life.

The point is: It's a rhetorical question, folks. You don't wait for buddies to call you. You pick up the phone. Or better: Just show up on their doorstep.

Rule 6

Friends remain equally loyal in good times and bad.

Thoughts: In "Wedding Crashers," Vaughn's Jeremy endured a "midnight rape" as well as a "nude gay art show" just so John (Owen Wilson) could have a shot with Claire (Rachel McAdams). Dale came back for Saul in "Pineapple Express," losing a chunk of his ear in the process. ("Don't worry, bro," Saul tells him, deftly employing Rule No. 2. "Think about Evander Holyfield.")

Rule 7

Friends know it's OK to say, "I love you." But they don't have to, you know, talk about it at length.

Thoughts: Acknowledging feelings is a fine thing, even if it sometimes takes a few psychedelic mushrooms to get the ball rolling. (Think Rudd's Pete and Rogen's Ben, post Cirque, in "Knocked Up.") But you don't have to dwell on it. When Owen Wilson's wedding crasher got to the church on time for Jeremy's wedding, all was forgiven -- with a simple nod of the head. That's enough.

The point is: These days in movies, male friendship means never having to say anything more than "I love you, man."

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