They Came Together

Posted by Joel Copling on July 1, 2014

There is the very distinct possibility that the romantic comedy subgenre doesn't need a spoof, but alas, here is "They Came Together," and what an uproarious occasion this is. Poking and prodding the conventions of the 1990s romcom (You know the ones; they usually starred Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan) while rearranging them into something new, the film--featuring a title as much about the action upon arriving at a party with someone else either intentionally or unintentionally as it is about the innuendo--is an almost shockingly broad spoof of the subgenre as only Christopher Guest or David Zucker could have made it in the '90s. Better, it's outrageously funny, filling nearly every inch of the screen with some sort of gag and succeeding roughly ninety percent of the time.

For here we have Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper as a couple, Kyle and Karen, with some serious issues acting an audience to a story that is described as a "corny romantic comedy" by one of its tellers before a wink to the camera. Throughout said story (the flashbacks of which make up the film's narrative), Kyle and Karen interrupt, voicing their own (and, come to think of it, our) misgivings about this story, which grows more and more caustic as it also becomes more outrageous. Screenwriters Michael Showalter and David Wain (who also directed) respond to these misgivings by loading the Meet Cute scenario with subversion lurking between every inch of the material.

The tellers of the story are a mostly likable duo. Joel (Paul Rudd) is a boring corporate drone for a candy development and research conglomerate. He has his usual workplace cliches in which to place his trust: A gaggle of basketball cronies separates into literal representations of his many quirks (and those of any male lead in any romantic comedy) while talking in obvious, compartmentalized dime-store philosophies that only contrived best friends in the movies impart. But his major problem is a girlfriend (Cobie Smulders) who is--quite literally in one highly amusing scene of daffiness--cheating on him behind his back with a rival from work (Michael Ian Black).

Molly (Amy Poehler) is the owner and proprietor of the candy shop Joel's company is about to sink (The C.E.O., played by Christopher Meloni, laughs maniacally at the very thought). She's got her fair share of issues, with the father of her kid in jail and a set of parents whose white supremacism is rather blinding. The two Meet-Cute when they bump into each other just before a costume party (They are both dressed as Benjamin Franklin, the reveal for which is simply hysterical) and bond over minute things--the advent of over-complicated coffee orders, a shared love of "fiction books" that no one else seems to have in this charmingly fictional universe. (This isn't the first time that they bump into each other, though the amusement of it happening once before when neither takes notice of the other is one of the bigger laughs in the movie.)

The ensuing series of montages (during which the film's best laugh is revealed and I paused the film to allow my howls of laughter to subside; here's a hint: playfulled tossed leaves in a park) and conventions (New York City, it is made abundantly clear, is nearly as much a character in their love story as they are themselves, while a riotous clothes-changing montage holds unexpected consequences) belonging to the subgenre represent an outstanding knowledge of those conventions and a savvy knowledge in upending those conventions. Filled to the brim with clever supporting work (Ed Helms is a riot as a well-meaning but dull character named Eggbert, and an actor recently famous for insane roles shows up at the end as Molly's ex-husband) and the fortitude to let loose with its most outrageous material--always played gloriously straight when Poehler is involved--"They Came Together" is a divine comedy, the best so far in 2014.

Film Information

Paul Rudd (Joel), Amy Poehler (Molly), Cobie Smulders (Tiffany), Christopher Meloni (Roland), Max Greenfield (Jake), Bill Hader (Kyle), Ellie Kemper (Karen), Jason Mantzoukas (Bob), Melanie Lynskey (Brenda), Ed Helms (Eggbert), Michael Ian Black (Trevor).

Directed by David Wain and written by Wain and Michael Showalter.

Rated R (language, sexual content).

83 minutes.

Released in select cities on June 27, 2014.