Sundance 2014: 'They Came Together' is the Perfect Rom-Com Parody
by Ethan Anderton
January 25, 2014
First of all, let's be clear that I hate the term "rom-com" because it's such a silly industry abbreviation, as if no one in Hollywood has time for words (though that's evident by the quality of scripts that get turned into movies, but I'm getting away from myself). But the headline needed to fit and be clear: Comedian, writer and director David Wain, and his "Stella" cohort Michael Showalter, have created the perfect parody of romantic comedies with They Came Together. This time, Wain brings Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd (two bit players from the stellar Wet Hot American Summer) together for a meet-cute, with all the cliches.
It's truly amazing just how many romantic comedy tropes Wain and Showalter fit into this comedy. From Poehler beginning the story as an adorably klutzy woman living in a brownstone to Rudd and his commitment to commitment issues and irresponsible little brother, played magnificently by Max Greenfield ("New Girl"). Our story is bookened and interrupted throughout by Rudd and Poehler explaining their cheesy romantic comedy story to Ellie Kemper ("The Office") and Bill Hader ("Saturday Night Live") and their hilarious banter, which serves as the most meta comedy in the whole film. Hader and Kemper are integral parts as they question the validity of this romance, all the while adding to the formula.
Helping the story along as alternative romances in the middle of the tale are Cobie Smulders, who actually breaks Rudd's heart in the beginning of the film, and Ed Helms, each running the gamut of the clearly incompatible love interest that Rudd and Poehler try to use to forget each other. As I write this, I'm thinking about real romantic comedies that use this exact same plot device, and that makes everything about They Came Together that much more. Perhaps what's most endearing about the film is there's clearly a love for romantic comedies, no matter how typical they are, and that adds a whole new level of charm to the spoof proceedings. From When Harry Met Sally to You've Got Mail, this film is a tribute as much as it is a mockery of classic and commonplace romantic comedies.
And it wouldn't be a Wain and Showalter production without plenty of cameos. Some aren't surprising like the inclusion of Ken Marino, Michael Ian Black, Kenan Thompson, Michaela Watkins, Christopher Meloni and Jack McBrayer. While others come completely out of left field, and we wouldn't dare spoil them. Other supporting hilarity comes from Jason Mantzoukas and Melanie Lynskey, each as Rudd and Poehler's respective good friends who inadvertently hook our leads up with each other. They each have some laugh out loud moments, and add to the pure exhaustion you'll feel from chuckling through the entire movie. It's also important to mention that New York is such a big part of the film that it's like a character in itself (and if you forget, you'll be reminded, several times).
To try and explain all the ways They Came Together is funny is impossible and would divulge into me explaining all of the jokes that incited laughter. But the film will keep you laughing every 15 seconds. Whether it's targeting all the familiar friends and family members every single romantic comedy has, or adding insane silliness and slapstick into the equation, They Came Together is every bit as brilliant as classic spoofs like Airplane!, Young Frankenstein and The Naked Gun, but still stands on its own with Wain's unique comedic sensibilities. Not even Wet Hot American Summer went this far with its parody of 80s, coming-of-age, summer camp flicks; it's glorious, and just might be Wain's best film yet.
Director David Wain, along with co-writer Michael Showalter, have crafted a piece of comedy gold. Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler make a fantastic legitimate romantic comedy couple (have you ever met someone else who likes "fiction books" at all?), and expertly and affectionately skewer the genre. They Came Together is the kind of film you'll watch multiple times and still catch something new. Parodies like this are hard to come by, especially with the garbage thrown around by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans), but Wain and Showalter show that the art of lampooning is far from dead, and merely needed some legitimate talent to make it shine again. They Came Together is an exercise in comedy brilliance, and will make you cry with laughter.
Lionsgate releases They Came Together on June 27th this summer.
Ethan's Sundance 2014 Rating: 9 out of 10
Follow Ethan on Twitter - @Ethan_Anderton