Movie Review - They Came Together
This framing device is unneeded. It's almost as if writers Michael Showalter and David Wain wanted to get Hader and Kemper in the movie but couldn't find a place in the narrative, so shoe-horned them into this framing device. Yet, the framing device establishes that the story being told is like a cliché romantic comedy. The movie then proceeds to call out all those clichés and essentially parody them.
The movie that is parodied the most or the plot that it rips the most is You've Got Mail (1998). Amy Poehler plays Molly, the owner of a small, independent, candy store in New York. Paul Rudd plays Joel, an executive at a big corporation that also makes candy and that wants to shut down her small operation. Molly is an idealist but clumsy. Joel is handsome but not threatening.
As they stumble their way toward each other, the level of humor becomes more akin to the Zucker brothers or possibly the Wayans brothers. Given the filmmakers and the majority of the cast, this film is more of a spiritual sequel to Wet Hot American Summer (2001). Pretty much all of the same people from that cult classic are all present for this one doing their version of Fierce Creatures (1997).
Even the way Christopher Meloni is used is exactly the same. In Wet Hot American Summer, the joke with Meloni is that he does or says something crazy and then immediately denies it. In this film, Meloni does the same joke. He does something crazy and then immediately denies it. The exception here is that it's toiler humor, which isn't as clever. Meloni sells it though and is able to make it funny.
There are a few funny gags. The muffin joke is funny. The reveal of what's in Molly's apartment after her date with Joel is funny. The white supremacist scene, which leads to the breakup scene, is funny. The sex scene between Rudd and Colbie Smulders is funny, as it looked like a live action version of the sex scene in Team America: World Police (2004).
Practically all of the other jokes and gags are too on-the-nose, too much of winking at the camera and often run too long. A lot of it gets to be super repetitive. Some of it is on purpose but still. The coda rips off the joke and essential premise of Celeste & Jesse Forever, co-written by Rashida Jones who co-starred with Poehler on Parks and Recreation. Even though a Variety article says that Showalter and Wain's script was written prior to Rashida's, her movie was released first.
This movie mainly wants to spoof romantic comedies, but it does so in boldly obvious ways. The problem is Paul Rudd has done several, wildly better spoofs of romantic comedies that aren't so obvious and hammer you over the head. Starting with Rudd's very first film Clueless (1995) by Amy Heckerling that was a perfect spoof of romantic comedy, as much as it was riffing off Jane Austen.
Heckerling is clever at spoofing things in clever ways. She did it again with Rudd and Michelle Pfieffer in I Could Never Be Your Woman (2007). One can even read I Love You, Man (2009) with Rudd and Jason Segel as a spoof of romantic comedy as well. It takes all the tropes and upends them by having it be between two men who aren't gay. That film certainly didn't invent the idea of bromance but became a signature example. In those previous films, Rudd is also allowed to give a performance and not simply be a hammer hitting a cliché.
Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language and sexual content.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 24 mins.