‘They Came Together’ Sharply Skewers the Rom-Com

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – If there is any genre of film that needs a good blasting, it is the romantic comedy. These silly fantasies practically seem like satires anyway, so when the comic genius of writer/director David Wain ponders them, and casts Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler as the “couple,” the funny will fly.

Although making fun of the rom-com is like shooting fish in a barrel, Wain – with co-writer Michael Showalter – use all kind of firing weapons. The film is actually like the “Airplane” of rom-com satires, going so extreme and surreal that you will be as much freaking out as laughing, which is awesome. Rudd, Poehler, Cobie Smulders (“How I Met Your Mother”), Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper (“The Office”) are all at the top of their comic games, and they deliver the sometimes bizarre material to perfection. If you love or hate rom-coms, this movie is for you. Hell, even if you don’t think about them that much, it’s still for you.

The film begins in a restaurant, with Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) relating to their friends Bob and Karen (Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper) the story of their meeting. As in most romantic comedies (or at least “You’ve Got Mail”) there is a big corporate candy concern that Joel works for, and that threatened Molly’s quirky little candy shoppe in Manhattan.

Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler
Coosome Twosome: Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) in ‘They Came Together’
Photo credit: Lionsgate

It’s hate at first sight for the couple, and they go their separate ways until meeting again in a bookstore. They find a commonality over “fiction books,’ and their romance blossoms. Again, as in the playbook, there has to be a break up in the middle of the romance, plus some misunderstandings, plus a seeking of comfort from a best friend, plus an awkward rebound date (knocked out of the park as portrayed by Ed Helms) until finally, they come together.

This really gets surreal, which is perfect for the genre they are skewering. They throw all kind of jokes against the story, and are not afraid to fail with those jokes, as long as they come fast and furious. Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler are just flat out ideal as the goofy couple, as the range of comedy – sardonic, befuddled and physical – is just right for these exquisite comic actors.

The atmosphere that David Wain establishes is almost anarchistic. The couple lives in a world in which everybody and everything supports their relationship – until it doesn’t – which at times is very cruel. Like his off-beat comedies “Role Models” and “Wanderlust,” the funny stuff has a darker streak within it, and that allows the jokes to live and breathe in a variety of situations. Bill Hader, for example, thrives ultimately in this type of world, with his “everyman” looks hiding a twisted, angry personality.

The best sequences are toward the end, when the break-ups and come-back-togethers culminate in meeting at that certain “spot” that all romantic comedies seem to have. There is a series of “stop the music” bits that interrupt the reuniting couple, more and more bizarre. It is a reminder of “Airplane” and “Police Squad” in that sense, and the filmmakers do right by those inspirations.

Ellie Kemper, Bill Hader
Joel and Molly Tell Their Story to Karen (Ellie Kemper) and Bob (Bill Hader) in ‘They Came Together’
Photo credit: Lionsgate

The casting was precise, with many friends of the stars and filmmakers making cameos (like “30 Rock’s” Jack McBayer). I particularly loved seeing Michael Murphy – as a sociopathic Dad – who had character roles in the classic films “M*A*S*H,” “What’s Up, Doc?,” “Nashville,” “Manhattan” and “Batman Returns.” The only problem with this film was the jokes that didn’t work, but that is just a matter of taste.

As long as there is Kate Hudson, bubbly hack screenwriters and a boffo opening weekend, there will be romantic comedies. “They Came Together” (love that double entendre) is providing a release valve for those who have been forced to endure that mush, and laughs for those who love them – because if you can’t laugh at yourself, then I’ll laugh at you.

“They Came Together” has a limited release, including Chicago, on June 27th. Featuring Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Cobie Smulders, Bill Hader, Ellie Kemper, Ed Helms, Michael Ian Black, Michael Murphy, Jack McBrayer, Kenan Thompso and Norah Jones. Written by Michael Showalter and David Wain. Directed by David Wain. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2014 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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