Thursday, September 4, 2014

Movie Review: They Came Together

They Came Together
Directed by: David Wain.
Written by: Michael Showalter & David Wain.
Starring: Paul Rudd (Joel), Amy Poehler (Molly), Cobie Smulders (Tiffany), Christopher Meloni (Roland), Max Greenfield (Jake), Bill Hader (Kyle), Ellie Kemper (Karen), Jason Mantzoukas (Bob), Melanie Lynskey (Brenda), Ed Helms (Eggbert), Michael Ian Black (Trevor), Michael Murphy (Roger), Kenan Thompson (Teddy), Jack McBrayer (Oliver), Ken Marino (Tommy), Teyonah Parris (Wanda), Zandy Hartig (Katherine), Noureen DeWulf (Melanie), Michaela Watkins (Habermeyer).

There are individual moments, lines and sometimes whole scenes in They Came Together that made me laugh more than any other mainstream comedy that I have seen so far this year. The film is a parody of romantic comedies, and knows the clichés of the genre inside out, and has great fun poking fun of them lovingly – and sometimes not so lovingly. And in Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler the film has a perfect pair to pull this off. It’s somewhat disappointing therefore to say that the sum of the parts are far less than the whole – the movie never really comes together, even in the limited way great parodies do. Couple this with the fact that making fun of romantic comedies is pretty much picking low hanging fruit and the film never quite goes for the jugular and the result is disappointing. Hilarious in part, but still disappointing.

The film opens with Joel (Rudd) and Molly (Poehler) out at dinner with Kyle (Bill Hader) and Karen (Ellie Kemper) – who tell them their own meet cute story, and then ask for Joel and Molly’s. So the pair launch into a long winded story that we flashback to see just how exactly the two met. She runs a cute little Candy Store in New York City, and he works for a huge Candy Conglomerate who wants to put her out of business. They meet at a party, immediately hate each other, but then, slowly, they fall in love – dealing with one obstacle and setback after another.

To say more would pretty much be giving away the jokes in the movie – because the film is pretty much all wall to wall jokes, as the pair deal with their fledgling relationship, and all the roadblocks that go along with that – which have been raised to ridiculous levels (the visit to Molly’s parents is a particular highlight).

The film was directed by David Wain – who co-wrote it with Michael Showalter, and in the vein of their cult favorite Wet Hot American Summer (never seen by me). Individual scenes work, as they poke fun of the all the clichés that romantic comedies have been using for decades. Rudd and Poehler carry the movie with effortless charm and humor – and the supporting cast are mostly in top form as well. You could almost see any individual scene in the movie working well as a skit on a more profane Saturday Night Live.

Yet, when strung together, the movie runs simply runs out to steam well before it ends. What works as a skit doesn’t always translate well to feature length, and even though the film is filled with clever touches right up to the end, I had stopped really caring that much. Compared to another recent movie – Michael Dowses The F Word, which also indulged in romantic comedy clichés, but did so in the service of a movie that actually worked, and was trying to be a complete movie, not just a series of jokes, They Came Together felt somewhat lacking. Perhaps had Wain and company simply pushed further – gone into much darker territory with the romantic comedy clichés, it could have worked. But mainly, they played it safe. The result, while at times hilarious, left me wanting more.

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