Oh, that awkward moment where you feel compelled to pan a movie starring Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler. Were I pressed to blindly pick a male and female comedic lead for a movie I was putting together, I'd probably choose these exact two. They are hilarious and adorable. And yet even they -- like pretty much every other actor ever -- are limited by the material with which they have to work.
Sadly, the proof for this inarguable fact comes in the form of They Came Together, a spoof romantic comedy from director David Wain, the guy most famous (I think) for cult comedy classic Wet Hot American Summer.
Rudd and Poehler play Joel and Molly, respectively, a New York City couple who recounts the intentionally absurd story of their romance to dinner partners played by Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper. The flashback format of the film opens things up for an almost endless stream of cameos -- some better than others -- from the likes of Christopher Merloni, Ed Helms, Michael Ian Black, Jack McBrayer, Ken Marino, and on and on.
What it doesn't do, despite all the talent on hand and a seemingly appealing premise, is deliver the kind of consistent, well-executed laughs that a send-up must to avoid drifting in to Scary Movie territory. The line between Mel Brooks and Meet the Spartans is more razor-thin than you would think, apparently.
I can only speculate as to why that is the case, but here are a few explanations, which, together, might shed some light on what went awry:
- Everyone involved in this film, Wain included, has way too much going on to actually deliver a decent product. Honestly, it felt like the film was thrown together around everyone else's projects.
- Rom-coms are in decline and, as such, it's just not that much fun to beat up on a genre that, just a decade ago, seemed to be flourishing. I think there's actually quite a bit to this. I'm no defender of the genre by any stretch, but I also think it has its merits. They Came Together honestly felt unnecessary in this regard. We're all aware of the worst tropes in this genre at this point, aren't we? Did we really need a whole feature film to remind us how trite and silly they are?
Whatever happened, don't bother with They Came Together. Wain and his primary muses Rudd and Poehler have done far better in their extensive careers. You'd be better off spending the evening rewatching Role Models or I Love You, Man or a whole season of Parks and Recreation.