Comedy doesn’t have to be edgy, daring or provocative to be good but it does need to be funny and for the most part the new Australian romantic comedy I Love You Too isn’t. There are plenty of moments where you recognise that a situation or a line of dialogue is a comedic one but actual laughter is rare. A big part of the problem with I Love You Too is that it all just seems so familiar. The leading man Jim (Brendan Cowell) is a commitment-phobe man-child, the leading woman Alice (Yvonne Strahovski) longs for marriage and the leading man’s best friend Blake (Peter Helliar, who also wrote the script) is offensive and crude yet ultimately loveable. These are stock characters that trade heavily in gender stereotypes and aren’t developed in any way that is interesting or surprising.
Cowell is a great dramatic actor (as he once again demonstrated in Beneath Hill 60) but he doesn’t seem comfortable with comedy and he never makes the audience like him or wish for him to win back Alice. Strahovski is adequate as Alice but the character simply functions in the film as a goal to be obtained so there is little to work with. As Blake, Helliar just feels too much like a watered down version of Vince Vaughn’s character in Swingers.
I Love You Too is not a complete write-off as director Daina Reid, who until now has worked in television, is clearly very capable and does a competent job with the material that she has to work with. The presence of American actor Peter Dinklage (Death at a Funeral, The Station Agent) also lifts several scenes in the film as he has the required comic delivery that so many of the other performers lack. Fortunately jokes about his stature are not endlessly milked and he even gets a sweet subplot. Unfortunately another subplot involving Jim’s sister is dull and makes the film unnecessarily long.
The pieces are all there for I Love You Too to be a good romantic comedy but good genre filmmaking is about working within the restraint of the genre without everything feeling tired, familiar and average. There is an almost desperate desire in Australia at the moment to make safe, generic crowd-pleasing films but that is no reason why Australian audiences should settle for mediocrity.