LAFF 2014: They Came Together
Those who understand and appreciate the humor of David Wain and Michael Showalter have no doubt been anticipating They Came Together, the first film the duo has worked on together since Wet Hot American Summer, their TV endeavors aside. (Fans will be happy to hear that in the Q&A following the premiere the duo said a Wet Hot American Summer prequel is in the works). To appreciate their comedy means also appreciating those they pay homage to, the spoof films of Mel Brooks and Jim Abrahams, who perfected the craft of effectively using films to make fun of films with a distinctly self-aware humor. They Came Together, rather than directly parodying romantic comedy films (though there are some obvious references dashed about the film), seeks to poke fun at the entire genre, incorporating almost every major romantic film cliché there is. What makes it more effective than say an outright parody film like Date Movie, is it’s use of major comedic talent and that Wain/Showalter touch that, though sometimes baffling and always ridiculous, almost always elicits a laugh.
The film is about Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) as they tell the story of how they met to two friends at dinner (Ellie Kemper and Bill Hader). Set in New York City (which is repeatedly jabbed at as the “third main character” of the film), Joel works for a large corporate candy company and Molly operates a small candy store. Joel is just getting over his smoking-hot ex (Cobie Smulders) who cheated on him with his successful co-worker. Molly has also recently broken up with her boyfriend and turns down her accountant’s advances (played by Ed Helms) to focus on herself. When friends try to set them up at a Halloween party they run into each other on the way there and instantly dislike each other. It isn’t until they see each other later at a book store where they discover a mutual love for (gasp) fiction books that Molly agrees to a date and their romance begins. From there almost every romantic film cliché appears. She’s lovably klutzy. He’s a responsible older brother, caring for his aimless sibling (Max Greenfield). They fight over family differences (hers are all white supremacists, whoops) and break up. He finds solace in his ex, she tries dating her accountant, eventually leading up to a wedding that needs breaking up and a solid ten minutes of every romantic movie ending they could fit in.
Wain and Showalter prove once again there is no joke they won’t beat to death, going just over the line enough to bring it back to life. It’s a humor that revels in straddling the line between ridiculous and ridiculously funny. The two delight in the humor of repetition and certain scenes take it to the point of exhaustion. Those who don’t find it funny, will find it utterly obnoxious. Much of the film’s success relies on the impeccable chemistry between Pohler and Rudd, two actors well aware of each other’s methods by now and perfectly cast in their stereotypical roles. It’s idiocy for the sake of idiocy, but has so much charm and excellent timing that this reviewer’s funny bone was tickled for 90 minutes straight.
If you aren’t laughing, you’ll probably be shaking your head, but there are very few people in this world not won over by Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler. Let’s be honest, we’d watch them read the phone book.