I Love You Man
I Love You, Man comes dangerously close to striking out before it even steps up to the plate. First off, the basic premise, about a guy who goes off in search of a male friend to call his own, sounds imbecilic even on paper. Strike one. And then there's the trailer, which, continuing an alarming trend these days, is cut in a shrill fashion to make the movie itself seem like a complete waste of time. Strike two. But I Love You, Man avoids striking out by remaining true to its own good-natured core. Like most films in the Judd Apatow vein (the man himself wasn't involved with this project, but the principal players are all veterans of his works), it attempts to strike a desirable balance between sweet sincerity and risqué raunch. Yet perhaps more than any of the other films (Knocked Up, Superbad, etc.), it frequently pulls back when it reaches the edge of vulgarity. That's not to say the picture doesn't fully deserve its R rating: With its ample selection of crude language, no one will be mistaking this for Mary Poppins. But by focusing on the sweetest lead character since Steve Carell's 40-year-old virgin, the movie emerges as a possible date-night selection that both sexes can enjoy. Delivering a performance that should have discerning women20of all ages wanting to pinch his cheeks, Paul Rudd stars as Peter Klaven, a nice guy who's always put his energy into his relationships with women. Because of this, he doesn't have a single male friend -- the guy he's closest to is his gay younger brother (nicely played by Andy Samberg) -- so after he proposes to his girlfriend Zooey (immensely appealing Rashida Jones) and realizes he has no one to serve as his best man at their wedding, he sets out on a mission to find an eligible dude. His first few "dates" are disastrous, but he eventually meets Sydney Fife (Jason Segel), who's his complete opposite: disheveled in appearance, able to converse openly about sex, and completely comfortable in his own guy-skin. It's after Sydney's first appearance that I Love You, Man had the potential to self-destruct. Most filmmakers at this point would turn Sydney into a complete creep or psychopath, a walking nightmare fueled by booze and testosterone. Yet while Sydney does often come across as boorish, he's allowed to remain a fundamentally ordinary guy, and an often decent one at that -- when he borrows several thousand dollars from Peter for what we presume will be a scam, the payoff to this plot strand is both unexpected and appreciated. Unlike some of the other sweet-and-sour comedies of modern times, I Love You, Man doesn't provide much in the way of large belly laughs. But it's pleasurable enough to paste a smile on the face for the majority of its running time. This joviality extends to the sce nes involving former Incredible Hulk Lou Ferrigno (playing himself) and the sequence featuring the aged rockers from Rush. Granted, Ferrigno's appearance isn't as uproarious as Brett Favre's cameo in There's Something About Mary, and the tribute to Rush isn't half as funny as the ode to KISS in Role Models. But still, there's something about I Love You, Man that clicks, thus making it a respectable role model for future movies of this type.
It's unlikely that Knowing will become a classic YouTube howler like The Wicker Man, but this latest dud starring Nicolas Cage does bring to mind the title of MAD magazine's Close Encounters of the Third Kind spoof. With its plotline involving extraterrestrials, a kid in potential peril, and a man obsessed with uncovering the truth behind unexplained phenomena, this could easily have been tagged Clod Encounters of the Absurd Kind. Sober in its intentions but laughable in its execution, Knowing begins promisingly, as a letter written by a little girl in 1959 finds itself, 50 years later, in the hands of John Koestler (Cage), an MIT professor whose wife died in a hotel fire a year earlier and who now must raise his son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) by himself. Koestler soon figures out that the piece of paper, on which the child scrawled nothing but a lengthy series of numbers, actually foretold all the major disaster s of the past five decades (well, all the disasters that resulted in deaths, as it appears the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections were not included). The problem is that three of the prophesied disasters have yet to occur, leaving Koestler in the unenviable position of trying to figure out how to stop large-scale tragedies from taking place. Meanwhile, a group of shadowy figures spend their time trailing young Caleb; they're meant to appear menacing, but that's hard to accomplish when they basically all look like Sting impersonators. Knowing was directed by Dark City's Alex Proyas, although it feels like the sort of poorly defined spiritual salve that M. Night Shymalan concocts in between preening sessions in front of the mirror. But early discussions regarding destiny versus randomness soon get sidestepped for one CGI set-piece after another, most of them hampered by mediocre effects work (and tasteless, too; did we really need to see blood repeatedly splatter on a runaway subway car window as it rams into each successive victim?). Eventually, the film elicits little more than misplaced chuckles, as awkward acting (particularly by Cage and unpromising child actor Canterbury), lulls in logic, and a cameo appearance by The Fountain's majestic tree combine to make this a movie not worth knowing about, let alone watching.