Starring: Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader
When they tell it themselves, the story of Joel (Rudd) and Molly’s (Poehler) relationship literally plays out like a cheesy, clichéd and predictable romantic comedy; they seemed to always be meant to be together, but yet certain dramatic events or their own decisions always seem to get in the way of true love.
When a film is intentionally a spoof of a particular genre it is always a tricky one to get right; the frequent self-awareness and self-referential nature of this beast can often lead to narrative laziness and smug self-indulgence. Well, though at times it does seem that They Came Together is a little too pleased with itself and does feel like a feature length Saturday Night Live sketch, it is still a genuinely funny send up of the romantic comedy genre with a high gag rate delivering far more hits than misses.
Of course such a genre is certainly very easy to mock, but yet the gags still don’t feel too cheap or lazy. The fact is that without the big name cast being on particularly top form, They Came Together would be nowhere near as good as it is. Paul Rudd himself has starred in a fair few films of the genre that this very film mocks (which I am sure in some ways helps with the effectiveness of his performance), and his dry humour and immaculate comic timing is absolutely perfect for this film. Rudd shares superb screen chemistry with Amy Poehler and their sharp delivery is great to watch. The supporting cast, which is an array of familiar faces, are also on excellent form.
Of course, how much was improvised and how much was originally in the script co-written by director David Wain and Michael Showalter I have no idea, but the rapid gag rate undoubtedly makes for a film a lot funnier than it perhaps should have been. They Came Together is not just lazy swipes at a genre that almost opens itself to invite mockery; there is genuine inventiveness to many of the gags even when there is self aware laziness. One particular gag (I will of course not go into specifics and spoil it – but it involves a constant circulation and repeat of only three sentences) should not work, but yet the sheer audacity of all involved to keep it going for as long as they do means that it just, well, does.
The self aware laziness is of course a long running gag of the entire narrative, and though it does risk verging on smug laziness, They Came Together thankfully never quite crosses that Rubicon. What also works in the favour of the film is the very brief running time of 83 minutes, making sure the gag rate can maintain rapid and the film never outstays its welcome.
Despite choosing a subject that is very, very easy to mock, as a parody of romantic comedies They Came Together somehow works. It is an often genuinely hilarious film with far more hits than misses thanks to a brief running time, a rapid gag rate and a top cast on top of their game.