It would seem that Hollywood has packaged up and sold romantic comedies, what with the ridiculous casting of the two hunky romantic interests, impossibly unreal circumstances, and general overly-cutesy-ness, to within an inch of their life. So much so that the genre itself, edging ever closer to the young adult Nicolas Sparks-aimed audiences, has begun to feel like it’s all one moment away from collapsing in on itself from the sheer weight of convention and cliche that is stuffed into each movie. So leave it to comedian absurdists David Wain and his comedy/producing partner Michael Showalter to send up the entire conflated genre in the duo’s new merciless rom-com parody, They Came Together.
If you’re already raising an eyebrow over this movie’s title, wondering if you’re perhaps reading it the right way, don’t worry; you are. After involving himself with such straight-ahead and mildly amusing fare as 2008’s Role Models and 2012’s Wanderlust, director David Wain returns to his earliest, most personal, and strongest comedic roots, in drumming up this slapstick, self-referential spoof.
As in Wain’s breakout film, the wonderfully off-the-wall Wet Hot American Summer, which gave many of Hollywood’s most coveted leading comedians their first big break (including one closeted camp counselor played by Bradley Cooper), They Came Together is as much a hilariously dialed-in parody as it is a fantastically crafted absurdist comedy. The non-stop jokes that are churned out from start to finish here, from some of the funniest and most familiar faces working today, make this as rewarding a film as it easy easy to watch, making it one to watch at any time with laughs that deliver.
The non-stop jokes that are churned out from start to finish here, from some of the funniest and most familiar faces working today, make this as rewarding a film as it easy easy to watch, making it one to watch at any time with laughs that deliver.
Starring as our romantic leads, of which their characters flat out refer to themselves as in describing “the corny romantic comedy love story” that is ‘the story of how they met’ are Paul Rudd as Joel and Amy Poehler as Molly, two of America’s most beloved funny people in roles here that, as actors who typically only play ‘characters with quirk,’ are able to run wild with the anything-goes format (as they did in the aforementioned Wet Hot American Summer). Rudd as Joel capitalizes on his aw-shucks everyman character, serving as the successful in business (he works at a corporate candy store) yet not-so-much with love (he gets his heart broken early on by ex Tiffany (Cobie Smulders) do-gooder, while Poehler punches up her lovably goofy and clumsy self to the fullest degree as looking-for-love independent candy store owner (go ahead and start connecting the dots of what the movie’s main conflict will be) Molly, both of whom hit their marks and land the jokes as effortlessly as possible, as if the whole thing was shot in under a month with basically all of their friends. Oh, wait…
The plot here more or less takes the back seat in this whole charade, except for the times when the movie comments on how it’s following its own cliche storyline (either the self-references here will urge you to keep watching, or you’re going to get fed up very quickly). We see the story of single Joel and Molly being set up by their respective friends at a Halloween party (their coincidental arrival results in the belief that “they came together”), as well as their initial disgust with the other, which turns into their slowly falling in love, which leads to their finding out each others’ threatening professions and their breaking up, followed by their getting back together, and there you have the basic framework of the movie. But this isn’t where the filmmakers and actors are concerned in exploring- oh, no. Moments like Molly and Joel earnestly connecting for the first time over their shared love of “fiction books,” a “Who’s On Third?” styled bar-conversation that is milked to glory, and the continuous reference of how the city of New York “is like a character itself” in the whole movie (added treat if you stay throughout the closing credits, where the city is thanked and once again referenced ‘like a character itself’) are where the movie becomes the sum of its parts.
The jokes come fast and loose, as every scene, and nearly every line of dialogue is flipped for another knee-slapping and snare-shot moment- some more effective than others. While the film doubles down on its relentless joke-making, and while it certainly all feels at least consistent, this may not be everyone’s style of humor. And it’s not a stretch or hard to imagine that the cast might have phoned in some or more parts of the movie, what with everyone’s demanding schedules with such important projects that the movie felt more like hanging out with friends rather than “The Next Paul-Rudd/Amy-Poehler Movie.) The distinction here in its “dumbness” is so fine a line that is being walked that it would take an experienced comedic veteran to really make the humor happen in shaping the project. Fortunately, Wain and Showalter, as co-writers and co-producers, display a finely trained eye and comedic sense to give this a legitimacy all its own, and the time spent with all of these talented individuals makes for truly worthwhile comedy.
With an impressive ensemble appearing here (not unlike Wet Hot American Summer), including Ed Helms, Jason Mantzoukas, Bill Hader, Ellie Kemper, and a hilarious Christopher Meloni as Joel’s demanding boss Roland, the whole event feels like a fun, shared get-together with friends, which is exactly what it is. Everyone here rises to the occasion (or rather, appropriately settles into the slacker effort) and delivers with their “cliche” parts, including ‘the scheming rival’ Trevor (Michael Ian Black, who completes the comedy trio Stella, along with Wain and Showalter).
This may be a first in my review-writing career, but I will now end this review and simply tell you to go out and see this movie (or was I already at the review’s most logical end? I’ll never tell). If you’re looking for a movie with non-stop laughs, however “dumb” and “low-brow” they may be, They Came Together is certainly the movie to see. Even despite its fast and loose, if not too fast and loose production, it still offers bounds upon bounds of laughs and an all around heir of fun that will satisfy Wain and co. fans to no end as well as audiences who might also have a shared love of “fiction books.”