They Came Together Review
One of the genres I prefer the least is the romantic comedy. I know I champion every movie, and I a fearless movie-watcher, but the romantic comedy never works, well at least nine-times-out-of-ten it doesn’t. I never really fall for the genre because it always seems to handcuff itself to its own clichés, it is a genre that repeatedly plays itself safe. Movies like “Annie Hall,” “Along Came Polly” and even “Celeste and Jesse Forever” maybe romantic comedies, and they even play by the same rules of the genre, but I love those movies because they thought outside the box. They were movies that used the genre norms and shattered them at the same time. This is why I love those movies; this is why those films are classics of the genre.
“They Came Together” is a romantic comedy, and it is also a self-parody of the romantic comedy. It puts a twist on the genre, but at the same time, it comes off looking silly. The film opens on a double date between Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) and Kyle (Bill Hader) and Karen (Ellie Kemper). Each couple is taking turns telling the story of how they met, and once Kyle and Karen finish their story, we go right into the Joel and Molly story. They begin by telling Kyle and Karen that they didn’t like each other at first and that their story is long. Before I knew it, Joel and Molly begin laying down cliché after cliché, and I knew I’d be seeing a parody of the romantic genre.
The movie is a celebration of romantic cheese. We see Joel get cheated on by his girlfriend Tiffany (Cobie Smulders), we see Molly talk about hapless romanticism with her best friend. We see Joel and Molly dress as the exact same thing at a Halloween party. We see them re-meet after the Halloween party and fall for each other. Molly has a hesitant sister and a son who likes Joel right away. They break-up, Molly goes after a jerk, and Joel re-connects with Tiffany. You will know exactly what we are going to see and how we are going to see it. But for a parody of the romantic comedy, especially a parody that underlines that it is going to make fun of the romantic comedy, I don’t know if it works. I don’t know if going out of the way to tell the audience that you are a romantic comedy parody is automatically screen gold. The film certainly knows the norms of the genre, but the film doesn’t be anything more than a checklist of things we see in this movie. It never does anything fun, creative or unique with the genre. So the entire film just comes off boring.
The film does manage to milk two outstanding performances from Rudd and Poehler. They are both cute and adorable and they try hard to make this one count. They are so bubbly that you definitely by into some of the absurdities of the film. But since the film never does anything more than simple parody, these performances are never allowed to flourish. I think if the script was a little more daring, the performances by Rudd and Poehler would have been much stronger. Cobie Smulders is just a blank in this film and doesn’t really add anything interesting in the film. The film is filled with familiar faces like Christopher Meloni, Ed Helms, Max Greenfield, Michael Ian Black, Michael Shannon, Melaine Lynskey, Lynn Cohen, Jack McBrayer, Adam Scott, Kenan Thompson, Ken Marino and even John Stamos. This is a great cast for a romantic comedy parody, but it “They Came Together” is so cookie-cutter than the film never flourishes.
Maybe I am being a little harsh, because there is some funny stuff in the film. There is a play on some of the “Annie Hall” tropes that I found funny. There is a running joke where Joel is always over-explaining his side of the story, which really made me laugh. There is a waiter who literally had a pole up his butt. There is some really funny stuff in the movie, and had the film been more creative, this material would not have felt wasted. Why wasn’t the good material more analyzed instead of mocking simple norms? It is really disappointing when there is good material in a comedy that gets wasted on a one-note script, no matter what the film is trying to do and say.
There is a minor set-up for a sequel, but I pray to God it never sees fruition. This would have been a fun idea for a movie, but it is never allowed to be anything greater. There is some funny material here and there are two good performances by two spectacular leads, but none of it adds up to anything substantial. There is nothing worse than seeing so much promise in something so hollow.
FINAL GRADE: C-