The original bromance … John Hamburg’s SAFE MEN

On the eve of a new Paul Giamatti comedy, COLD SOULS (opens 8/7), and with Sam Rockwell’s MOON in theatres now, I decided to return to an early comedy for these talented actors. It’s SAFE MEN (1998), the first film from writer-director John Hamburg, and it’s … well, it’s the Father of Bromance.

Okay, I should say the Father of Modern Bromance. A simple google search got me to the history of the bromance, wherein references to Han and Chewie and Felix and Oscar (bromance amongst all bromances) set me straight. (See’s top ten bromance couples here.) Although – side note – they clearly understand bromance as synonomous to The Buddy Film; I understand it more as The Buddy Comedy. And Modern Bromance? 90s-inspired, Apatow-flavored man-love? The general public may think the Apatow craze spawned movies this summer like (Hamburg’s) I LOVE YOU, MAN and HUMP DAY, but I contend it all started with SAFE MEN.

My theory was confirmed by listening to Elvis Mitchell interview Hamburg on “The Treatment.” Hamburg’s writing credits include MEET THE PARENTS, ZOOLANDER and, as mentioned above, he wrote and directed I LOVE YOU, MAN. He tells Mitchell that SAFE MEN was, to him, about lonely, awkward misfits trying to figure out what it means to be ‘a man’ – together. Awkward hugs abound! The then-relatively unknown cast, including Giamatti, Rockwell, Mark Ruffalo and Steve Zahn, nail some very funny relationship/character scenes, even though the film purports to be about two lounge singers who find themselves on the wrong side of the law when the Jewish mafia mistake them for safe-cracking criminals.

It’s filled with awkward, embarrassing moments – Hamburg says “discomfort has been my bread and butter.” Full disclosure: Hamburg’s wife Christina Kirk was in a short film I made, and is brilliant in SAFE MEN as love interest Hannah. Sam (Sam Rockwell) is hot after Hannah, who recently split with one of the real safe-crackers, Frank, played by Mark Ruffalo. Watch the scene here:

A closing thought. Who could make the next great female buddy comedy? There are, sadly, very few. BABY MAMA? Okay … before that? ROMEY AND MICHELLE’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION? Am I missing one? Tamra Jenkins (who wrote and directed THE SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS and THE SAVAGES) … I’m counting on you!