– Summary –
Director : David Wain
Year Of Release : 2014
Principal Cast : Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Cobie Smulders, Christopher Meloni, Max Greenfield, Bill Hader, Ellie Kemper, Jason Mantzoukas, Melanie Lynskey, Ed helms, Noureen DeWulf, Michael Ian Black, Michaela Watkins, Randall Park, David Wain, Jack McBrayer, Kenan Thompson, Ken Marino.
Approx Running Time : 83 Minutes
Synopsis: The story of how Joel and Molly met, hated each other, overcame a bunch of obstacles, and fell in love. The ultimate Romantic Comedy.
What we think : I admit it, I laughed even in spite of myself. A film that made a funny trailer couldn’t possibly hold it together for its entire running time, not when it’s basically every single trope from romantic comedy films shoveled together to form a “generic rom/com” on purpose, could it? Actually, They Came Together is pretty funny, mainly thanks to the earnest performances of Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler, both of whom give this film the charm and wit it needs to do its thing. Not to mention the cavalcade of cameo appearances from comedy alumni scattered throughout.
Anyone who has ever watched a stupid Hollywood romantic comedy film will find this film hilarious. I mean, it is hilarious. Take any rom/com you’ve seen, take the serious out of it, and you will find They Came Together. All those hours of enduring Jennifer Lopez, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Katherine Heigl, Matthew McConnaughey, Kate Hudson and/or Amy Adams and/or Ryan Gosling traipsing through New York on their quest to find love in the Big Apple, complete with cliche after cliche after cliche – rom/com’s really are the Mills & Boon of cinema – will come into sharp focus for this film’s pointed arrow of parody. They Came Together does to romantic comedies what the Scary Movie franchise does to… well, scary movies, and you know what? It really did work. I actually guffawed more than thrice, which is a sharp indication of just how amusing I found this one. I mean, just how more filled with innuendo can the film’s title actually be?
When Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) meet, it’s hate at first sight: his big Corporate Candy Company threatens to shut down her quirky indie candy shop. But amazingly (and predictably), they fall in love, until they break up and then must find their way back together.
Yeah, I hate romantic comedies. Generally, they’re a blight on solid, creative film-making. They’re generally lowbrow, usually filled with standard cliches the genre has morphed into thanks to decades of expectation from the largely female demographic, and contrived to the point of inanity. The genre throws up a mixture of sensibly silly female lead, her twitchy best friend, a guy she finds and initially despises (or has issues with), and after a series of usually stupid plot twists and obstacles, they end up falling for each other to the swell of orchestral bliss. Cue end credits, and a cinema filled with satisfied women. And a massive “huh…. is it over?” from the men accompanying them. Yeah, those cornball cliched films of romantic entanglement that are as far from real life as is humanly possible continue to swamp cineplexes and streaming services year in, year out, so I guess it was only a matter of time before somebody made an outright parody of them.
David Wain and Michael Showalter have crafted a screenplay that riffs on every single rom/com cliche, juggles them all together into a sweetly simple comedy that hits a home run in almost every scene. The kooky younger brother of the handsome dude? Check. The snappy, empowered best friend of the leading lady? Check. The oft-used cliche of having each scene end with a pause, a “Wait…” followed by a heartfelt “thanks” as somebody walks away? Check. The acerbic initial conversation where the two leads try and one-up each other in the dry wit department? Check. The friends who want them to get together but can’t seem to help? Check. In fact, every single scene in this film is, in some way, a parody of any similar scene in a romantic comedy, and thanks to leads Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler, generally nails it.
The fact this film works at all is largely thanks to our ability to recognize stupid, inane film-making cliches when we see them – it’s probably a large part of what makes any parody work, although romantic comedies are, typically, the most ripe for this kind of ass-ripping. The trite, saccharine love story whereby our two “heroes” live happily ever after, has been a Hollywood staple in all forms since the introduction of film itself, and although the fashions and dialogue may have changed, the perception of a “one true love” or similar still holds sway over a vast portion of our normally free-thinking, hugely rational population. I jest (not really), but how exactly is it that it’s taken this long to deliver a film that brings home a few honest truths about a genre most men will punch themselves in the balls to avoid?
They Came Together feels like an all-in game of “spot the celebrity comedian”; Rudd and Poehler aside, the film has a large number of cameos from other stars of the screen (including a riotous one from Law & Order: SVU’s Chris Meloni, in which he has a fecal issue with a leotard, and is one of the funniest scenes in the film), and this helps the kitschy, spot the star nature of the film to sparkle, even though it fumbles it’s lengthy midsection from time to time. The film runs some 80-odd minutes, and even that feels like it’s stretching the limits of the film’s very nature – this parody rides on cliche, and you kind spot ’em coming after a while – but Rudd in particular holds this thing together with a sense of sublime comedic timing, and a genuinely nice-guy approach to the material. The entire cast “get” the joke, and this in itself allows for a degree of wide-ranging humorous observational humor (Bill Hader in particular has a fabulous line about how the Leading Man’s best friends usually have some conglomerate associative personality traits that women find “attractive” in a man) and some nice little sidebar riffs on the genre (a montage sequence with Poehler and her bestie, as they try and find the right clothes for her to wear when Joel has to apologize for something, is hilarious when Joel arrives and thinks she’s not at work because she’s out the back trying on costumes), but the focus on Joel and Molly’s relationship (they hook up in a bookstore, a rather hokey play on You’ve Got Mail’s similarly themed process) remains the key to the movie.
They Came Together isn’t perfect, however. More than enough jokes land clumsily on the screen and just die, unfunny or awkward to the point of cringe-worthiness. Thankfully, however, there’s no shortage of good jokes flying out at you to quickly obscure the bad. Sharply written, with a wry acid-tongued zest that makes it fly, I expected to find myself laughing more at the film and it’s inherent stupidity, rather than with it; They Came Together is genuinely amusing, and I found myself enjoying it even in spite of its self-congratulatory mood. If you’re a fan of romantic comedies, or you flat-out hate them, I think you’ll have a great time with They Came Together.
Oh…. and thanks. No, thank you.