If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then ripping off is the highest tribute, as this gleefully rude but sweet-hearted modern bromance proves with every frame. It's not a Judd Apatow project, but it sure as shit feels like one, with many of the same faces and same deep commitment to fusing raunch and sincerity into a hyper-smart comedy hybrid.
Comedy supporting player and improviser Paul Rudd continues his route to leading-man dominance as endearingly geeky L.A. real estate agent Peter Klaven, a ladies' man in the less obvious sense of the term. Pete's a "girlfriend guy," a straight dude who relates better with women, lacking any really close support group of male friends. You could call him metrosexual, but he's much too humble and sincere, the very cuddly traits that constantly floor his gorgeous and brainy fiancee Zooey (Rashida Jones). Problem is, while she's got a tight clique of gal pals, he's short a few groomsmen — his fencing pals and jerky co-worker just aren't going to cut it. So gawky Peter sets out on a series of "man dates," basically interviewing for his best man to complete his otherwise happy lifestyle. After a predictable montage of misfires, he meets Sydney (Jason Segal), a brash slacker who's every bit as loose as Pete is reserved. Faster than you can say "odd couple," these dudes become best buds, gobbling fish tacos, picking fights on the Venice boardwalk, and jamming out Rush covers in Syd's garage studio-hideaway. Dependably, complications ensue, relationships strain and change, before the big wacky finish brings everybody back together for a credit sequence.
Writer-director John Hamburg specializes in mediocre Ben Stiller gobs (Zoolander, Meet the Parents and Along Came Polly), but here tunes into the more mature semi-realism of hits like The 40 Year Old Virgin. There are some big sight gags, a projectile vomit scene, Sydney getting choked out by Lou Ferrigno, but the humor mostly arises from dialogue honesty. The girls' candid sex talk is shockingly funny, as is Sydney's horrified reaction when Pete admits to masturbating to a picture of his own girlfriend.
The cast scores, even when material falters, with the lead's dude-chemistry in good comedic flow. Jon Favreau absolutely kills it as the crass, jocky husband to the maid of honor — his every grunt is a punch line. Segal is on-point playing a likably cocksure goof as easily as he did a sad sack in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The one sour note is Andy Samberg, pretty much playing himself but, inexplicably, gay.
Rudd's a wonder, spinning every goofy grin and embarrassed stammer into gold. He turns a riff about his failure to do any accent that "doesn't sound like a leprechaun" into a hilarious showpiece. If anything, Hamburg hits the well too often, such as repeating jokes and belaboring points — but with friends like these it's not so bad just hanging out.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.