It’s rare to find a romantic-comedy released in this day and age that doesn’t follow the now standard formula; from the slapstick jokes to the “forbidden love” plotting, right down to the overtly cheesy happy ending, most film buffs and regular rom-com appreciators can no doubt predict every step these movies are going to make based on the trailer alone. And then there is They Came Together, a straight-up parodic comedy that tries pretty aggressively to do just that, and send-up every single rom-com trope possible. The result is something that’s both witty and consistently funny, if a little heavy-handed.
Sundance-favourite David Wain’s latest slice of spoof-heavy satire finds Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler as Joel and Molly, an unlikely couple that find their budding romance tested to the extremes by meddling ex-lovers, a general disgust for each other and, oddly enough, the ruthless, cut-throat world of the American candy industry – yes, it doesn’t really make sense.
It’s obvious that plotting is the least of Wain’s worries. This is more a sketch than a film; a ludicrously detailed mockery of all that make rom-coms marketable, from the attractive leads to the overly emotional drama. Every single stage is pulled to pieces and laughed-at over and over again. If anything, They Came Together is stuffed with too many jokes, from the characters’ backgrounds, through all of the main plot points, even the title of the movie. Everything is a gag, quite literally, but only some of them actually work.
The upside to this approach is, of course, that the movie is rarely ever without a laugh. Every scene is rammed with so many one-liners and visual stunts that you can’t help but let out a consistent giggle, no matter how juvenile or worn-out the gag might seem. There are quite frankly so many jokes that the ones that don’t quite hit as hard as they should, don’t really matter. In the same vein as Airplane! and The Naked Gun, Wain simply ploughs on and on and the sheer volume of laughs is definitely something to be applauded.
The downside is of course that, when nothing is taken seriously, it’s not really a film at all. Rudd and Poehler deliver every joke with a noticeable wink making the whole debacle so self-aware that it loses all subtlety. One can’t help but feel if Wain had been more delicate with his spoofery, a presentable film might have been made instead of this rather soul-less parody that acts purely as nothing more than a vehicle for its jokes. It’s true some of his observations are clever and well-tuned, but Wain opts for laughter over humanity, meaning he loses out on far-more approachable grounded comedy.
Nevertheless, despite its notable flaws and thus, restricted audience, They Came Together is a consistently funny and quite often hilarious genre send-up, far superior to the likes of Scary Movie and its spin-offs. Flying at a million miles per hour and with a huge, never-ending cast of famous faces, it’s very much a film tailor-made for devoted old-school comedy lovers. Everyone else will no doubt find it all a bit silly and nonsensical.
They Came Together (2014), directed by David Wain, is distributed by Lionsgate and is released in the UK on the 5th September. Certificate 15. Watch the trailer below: