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Turning from romance among crabs in the beach to bromance among guys on the big screen. That's the term for what Hollywood used to call buddy flicks: Butch and Sundance, Felix and Oscar, Kirk and Spock.

Our critic Bob Mondello has seen a new comedy called "Humpday." And it stretches the idea of bromance about as far as it can go.

BOB MONDELLO: Ben and his wife, Anna, are a happily married suburban couple who've decided to try to have a baby, which is more or less what they're up to just a little before they hear someone at their front door at 2 a.m.

It's Ben's old college pal Andrew, a diehard bohemian who's been out of touch for a decade and who is now hoping to crash at their place and maybe get them to join him in some art's group partying.

Not wanting to offend his old buddy, Ben goes along to a party where, fortified by wine and pot, Andrew and some artistic types are trying to come up with a winning gimmick for an amateur porn contest called Humpfest.

Ben, who has gotten pretty stoned, offers easily the most out-there suggestion: two straight guys having sex, specifically.

(Soundbite of movie, "Humpday")

Mr. MARK DUPLASS (Actor): (As Ben) You and me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Two straight dudes.

Ms. LYNN SHELTON (Actress): (As Monica) Beyond gay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JOSHUA LEONARD (Actor): (As Andrew) Beyond gay.

Ms. SHELTON: (As Monica) Yeah.

Mr. DUPLASS: (As Ben) It's beyond gay.

Ms. TRINA WILLARD (Actress): (As Lily) I know it was like?

Ms. SHELTON: (As Monica) You know?

Ms. WILLARD: (As Lily) ?a joke, but, I mean, if you will film realizing this incredible way to express your love for your longtime friend?

Mr. DUPLASS: (As Ben) It's "Tender?"

Ms. WILLARD: (As Lily) ?I?

Mr. DUPLASS: (As Ben) "Tender is the Butt."

Ms. SHELTON: (As Monica) You know what it is?

Ms. WILLARD: (As Lily) I will bow down and give you the trophy. That would be an incredible piece of art.

MONDELLO: Uh-huh. Well, when sober the next morning, maybe not so much. But guys are competitive. So when Andrew suggests that his married friend might have trouble with the missus, and that he can back out if he wants?

(Soundbite of movie, "Humpday")

Mr. LEONARD: (As Andrew) I don't think any less of you for it. But?

MONDELLO: ?Ben's having none of it.

(Soundbite of movie, "Humpday")

Mr. DUPLASS: (As Ben) And first of all, let's just, like, take this down just a second. You're not as Kerouac as you think you are even though you've got the headband on. And I am not as white picket fence as you think I am, okay? Like, the black and whites, in which you're thinking this?

MONDELLO: So they're locked in, and the contest deadline is two days away.

Now, I know this sounds like a preposterous setup. But if you bear with writer-director Lynn Shelton a bit, she takes her concept places that are a lot more resonant than you'd expect, and does it without shortchanging the laughs that flow from the fact that these guys are going to have trouble with male-intimacy that goes much beyond backslapping.

(Soundbite of movie, "Humpday")

Mr. DUPLAS: (As Ben) You think that was awful?

Mr. LEONARD: (As Andrew) That was awful.

Mr. DUPLAS: (As Ben) This is going to be hard.

Mr. LEONARD: (As Andrew) Yeah. That puts a little wrench in the works, doesn't it?

MONDELLO: The director is really good at ferreting out the weak spots in the male ego including Andrew's need to prove that his post-college bohemian rhapsody wasn't a sham, and Ben's to establish that his marriage hasn't made him risk-averse. I'm going to guess that if this were a male-authored relationship comedy, Anna's wifely input wouldn't be quite so nuanced nor as any of this happening in the consequence-free zone inhabited by Judd Apatow movies, where boys will be boys, but only until brought to heel by the right girl. Apatow's jokes are generally well-crafted, but "Humpday's" laughs say a lot more about human nature.

The film ends up being about not just a really idiotic dare, but about the bounds of friendship and the bonds of marriage, and about how unsettling it can be to look at yourself in the cold light of maturity and realize you're not who you thought you'd grow up to be.

All that, and really funny, too. I'm guessing the film will make a couple of natural, easygoing actors - Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard - much sought after. And it'll likely get writer-director Lynn Shelton lots of offers, too, though here's hoping she keeps going her own way since it's so much more interesting than Hollywood's way.

I'm Bob Mondello.

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