Monday, June 30, 2014


The romantic leads in David Wain's "They Came Together" are Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler, and it's inspired casting, both for the sake of comedy and that they actually look like romantic leads. Rudd is handsome but nonthreatening while Poehler is adorable and impossible not to like. This very thing is explained in the opening scene when their characters, Joel and Molly, are telling the story of how they met to friends, Kyle (Bill Hader) and Karen (Ellie Kemper), at dinner. Their story is like a cheesy romantic comedy, and the friends act as an audience stand-in. But it's not a movie; it's their real lives! And a millisecond before the scene cuts away, Poehler gives a knowing look right to the camera. It's perfect.

Don't forget that New York plays such a pivotal role in their story, that the city really is like a third character, something that's brought up over and over. "So if your life was a movie," the friend asks, "we'd probably open with overhead shots of New York?" Cue overhead shots of New York, and the movie begins. Written by Michael Showalter and David Wain -- the guys behind the cult favorite "Wet Hot American Summer," and Wain who more recently made "Role Models" and "Wanderlust" -- the guys have a whole hell of a lot of fun jabbing, poking and skewering cliches of the rom-com genre left and right. It's really a one-joke movie, but that one joke really works thanks to smart writing and a whole cast of funny people from Max Greenfield and Michael Ian Black to Christopher Meloni and Jason Mantzoukas. (Not to mention a late cameo that I will not spoil here.)

Beyond Joel and Molly, all of the folks who populate this movie are less characters and more walking, talking rom-com tropes. Characters will call each other big brother, best buddy and friend stereotypes without batting an eye. The whole thing plays out like a series of strung-together sketches wherein some of the gags are a little too out there and don't exactly work. But when the comedy is on-point with its satire of the genre, especially early on, it's firing on all cylinders with always welcomed splashes of vulgarity. And it's not just broad brushstroke satire; they get down to even the smallest details to take aim at from musical montages to characters always having one more thing to say before a scene's end ("shit"). While the third-act catapult into absurdity is a bit of a letdown, what comes before it makes that easy to forgive. It will probably be hard to watch any straight-laced romantic comedy through the same lens again. Bravo.

No comments:

Post a Comment