Review: They Came Together

Posted on June 30, 2014

They-Came-Together-Movie-Review-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLOPaul Rudd and Amy Poehler in Lionsgate’s “They Came Together”  

 

If there are any two people primed and ready for a good rom-com parody, it’s these two bitter queens. Many a Saturday or Sunday afternoon has been spent on the couch, covered in cats and wine, ripping into the latest Lifetime Television for Women/Katherine Heigl/Nora Ephron offering with gusto. We were made for a movie like this. Unfortunately, this one didn’t have the bite it needed to be an effective parody.

Good, intelligent parody is an incredibly tough thing to pull off in a film comedy. First, because good parody requires a certain level of accuracy in order for it to be understandable and recognizable as the thing it’s parodying.  Second, because the closer you get to accurately portraying that which you’re parodying the less funny it tends to be, because you’re essentially becoming that which you’re parodying.

This is the major problem with director David Wain’s They Came Together, starring everyone’s imaginary boyfriend Paul Rudd and everyone’s imaginary best friend Amy Poehler. You couldn’t ask for two better people to take these roles on, because they already tend to embody the character types they’re parodying, and while they both bring their A game – and their considerable chemistry with each other – to the proceedings, the result is more clever than funny.

Every single rom-com cliche you can think of is here, from her candy store to his big corporate job; from her sassy black friend to his basketball playing (while talking about their relationships, naturally) guy friends; from her disapproving older sister to his layabout younger brother;from  the multiple shots of the Manhattan skyline to the CONSTANT reiterating that “New York City is the 3rd character in our love story,” nothing is missed and everything comes in for a skewering. Even the set design cleverly and subtly apes the conventions. She comes home to a ridiculously, naively girly house, painted in colors from an Easter basket and populated with a half-dozen or so rattan plant shelves ready to tip over at the first sign of sexual activity, while he’s shown discussing his feeling with his brother in his exposed-brick loft, complete with vintage pinball machine and random clusterings of globes and traffic signs. For character tropes, there’s also the respective best friends, who are married to each other and constantly pushing our two leads together, as well as an evil but bumbling corporate boss (a wasted, but still hot despite the terrible toupee Christopher Meloni), and a beautiful but cold ex-girlfriend (Cobie Smulders) who works in the fashion industry and responds to I-love-yous with “I admire your spirit.”

But when you bring in every single cliche for the kind of gentle and subtle skewering the movie tries for, there are times when it all becomes indistinguishable from any other bad romantic comedy. There are portions of the movie where everyone involved seems to have collectively understood this and randomly decided to go really broad, in a “someone makes out with their grandmother” or “someone shits their pants” or “someone gets shot in the face” manner – straight out of left field. It’s occasionally funny, but in every case, it was a total needle-scratch of a moment.

In fact, there were few real laugh-out-load moments, which was a huge disappointment with these two leads. Instead, we get a series of mildly-chuckle-out-loud (MCOL?) moments, especially when the film points out the lazy shorthand of the rom-com genre. New York City is constantly reduced to silly, Nora Ephron or Carrie Bradshaw-esque buzzwords, settings and sayings, from random interjections about muffins, subways and museums, to a Jewish person selling pickles out of a barrel on a street corner to Amy telling the world that New York is her boyfriend. Similarly, in a very brief scene set in Boston (complete with “Pahking” signs and “BOSTON TERRIERS FOR SALE” banners), all the background extras randomly blurt out things like “Ben Affleck! and “Sox!” When the movie takes its aim at that kind of narrative laziness, it seems to find its voice and it’s reason for existing, but these moments are few and far between. It’s all mildly entertaining (mostly because of the two leads), but too often comes off like either an extended Saturday Night Live sketch or an actual (and bad) romantic comedy.

 

 

[Photo Credit: Lionsgate Pictures]

    • http://recapscallion.blogspot.com/ Claire

      This movie didn’t quite do it for me either but at the very least it gets points for the Judge Judy and Michael Shannon cameos.

    • TinyDynamo

      This is why, as much as I love David Wain, I just don’t think he’s a good writer. Wet Hot American Summer should also be hysterical, but it’s – not. I feel like he’s so convinced that he has to prove his comedy chops that he goes overboard.

    • decormaven

      I’m afraid the summer movie extravangza has turned into a fizzle. Nothing’s calling my name to come to the movie theater. And that is a strange feeling indeed.

      • Ganoc

        Is Snowpiercer screening in the US? Because Snowpiercer is PHENOMENAL.

        • MilaXX

          I saw some buzz over this on twitter over the weekend. I think it’s in limited release.

        • AnaRoW

          It opened in limited release last Friday. I can’t wait for it to open wide. Edge of Tomorrow is pretty good too if people are willing to put aside their objections to Tom Cruise. Emily Blunt was great.

          • decormaven

            That will probably be a rental here. It bothers me that seeing TC’s name in the credit is a turn-off; I’d like to think I could get past that and appreciate the piece in total.

            • AnaRoW

              I honestly don’t get it. Yeah he was acting like a jerk for a while but he apologized. I’d have thought that having Doug Liman as the director and great reviews would have offset his reputation but I guess not. Most of the feedback was about what a terrible person TC is.

              I’d honestly planned to wait to see “Edge” until it reached second-run theaters (I generally prefer seeing action movies on the big screen.), but I needed to get out of the house Saturday night. I almost never pay full evening price for movies but I came out feeling I got my money’s worth.

        • decormaven

          Thanks. Mr. DM has expressed interest in this pic.

      • http://www.jaimieteekell.com/ Jaimie

        Last year was like this. I think things are going to Thanksgiving/December more. Which means MOVIE OVERLOAD for me, who tries to see all the Oscar and BAFTA contenders.

        • bitchybitchybitchy

          Last year I saw most of the Oscar contenders, so I’m anticipating a busy Nov/Dec/Jan coming up.

      • MilaXX

        I’m going to see Guardians if the Galaxy, but other than that nothing has me excited for stale popcorn and overpriced tickets.

        • bitchybitchybitchy

          I hold out on seeing the blockbusters til I can see them on the Tuesday bargain show at my local multiplex-hence last week’s viewing of the X-Men flick. For $5.50 I almost can’t lose.

          • Skippymom1

            We get first run movies – new releases – at an actual Drive In!!!! movie theatre. And everything – popcorn, candy, drinks, nachos, hot dogs are all under 3.25 at the concession stand. One first run movie is $5.50. Some nights they play a double feature – again, first run – for the bargain price of $8.50. It may not be a big city, but sometimes living in the hills of Virginia doesn’t suck. :)

            • bitchybitchybitchy

              That is great-a real drive-in, with first run movies and reasonably priced concessions! We live near Greenbelt, MD and the old movie theater just closed in June for much needed renovations. It’s been my go-to movie theater for years, as they get either first run movies or movies just after they’ve finished their first run. They have a huge screen, decent sound system, and bargain days.

            • Skippymom1

              I live in Orange VA – and ours is about 20 minutes north of Richmond. It is so great.
              I do miss the $3 movie theatre in Fairfax VA [University Mall across from George Mason Univ] – they didn’t have first run – but they ran them a bit after the fact – and cheap, fun concessions.
              I can’t rationalize paying $13.00 for a movie [X 4 people] and $40 to share One large popcorn and two small sodas with, maybe, a box of Skittles.
              Thank you for sharing. It’s nice to know these places still exist Bitchy, isn’t it?

            • bitchybitchybitchy

              Thanks! Yes, it is nice to have these places around. I confine my movie going to afternoon matinees during the week, and even then it’s $8.50(and that’s D.C. senior citizen rate). I will say the last time I did that it was totally worth it, for “Only Lovers Left Alive” with Tom Hiddleston and the divine Tilda.

            • Skippymom1

              Thanks for the heads up. I will definitely see if I can find that movie. My husband and I rate movies on “Was that worthy of 12.50 rate – he’s considered a Senior and gets a WHOLE 50 cents off [northern VA] – so it usually goes like this “Um, I give it 7 bucks, maybe 8.” Or “That was worth the whole ticket price.” We watch a lot of Netflix, DVDs and rent. I make killer popcorn. YUM. I cannot wait to see a movie with Tilda. YAY. And Tom doesn’t suck either. Thank you.

            • bitchybitchybitchy

              When I learned that my favorite small multiplex in D.C. gives a senior citizen discount(and it’s a good one-knocks 2 or 3 bucks off the admission)I cheerfully owned up to being 63-that said, I would have paid full price for “Only Lovers”-with Hiddles and Tilda as the coolest undead couple ever, and John Hurt as a superannuated vampire Christopher Marlowe, how could I lose?

      • FrigidDiva

        My mom made a comment that she wanted to see the new Transformers movie since she’s a Mark Wahlberg fan, to which I said, do you realize the movie is 2 HOURS and 40 MINUTES long? I don’t mind the ocassional Michael Bay film for some mindless fun, but there’s no way I’m sitting in the theater for 3 hours to watch explosions. This summer for movies just feels blah, which is sad since that’s usually date night for me and the hubs.

        • demidaemon

          I don’t think I could do that, even if I was a fan of the star, for a Michael Bay film. I barely made it through the original, and that was at home, because I wanted to see Transformers on the “big screen,” and for my brother, but it was a slog. He’s pretty much ruined everything I love about Transformers, and there was way too much emphasis on humans, when I wanted it to be about big robots (and such lame humans, too, as represented by Shia “Paperbag” LeBoeuf and Megan “No Charisma” Fox). BLARGH. Give me the animated series any day.

          • bitchybitchybitchy

            When I went to see X-Men last week I saw the trailer for the new Transformers, and that was all this BK needed to see. I personally draw the line at Michael Bay movies-not even my beloved nephews can talk me into seeing his films.

            • demidaemon

              I vaguely remember seeing something for the trailer on TV and it definitely did not impress me, either.

            • bitchybitchybitchy

              I can enjoy an Xfcts blockbuster, but more so when there is some wit and/or good cast along with the action, such as XMen or last summer’s Pacific Rim, which had Idris Elba and Ron Perlman in the cast.

            • demidaemon

              Yeah, the cast for the Transformers franchise has been…not inspiring, for some time.

        • decormaven

          Mr. DM expressed interest in the Transformers movie until he saw it ran almost 3 hours. That’s just silly.

          • bitchybitchybitchy

            Just think of the many other productive/fun ways that you and Mr. DM could spend those almost 3 hours.

          • FrigidDiva

            One thing to be said, at least you would get your money’s worth for the ticket price…is there an intermission during the movie?

    • teensmom99

      MCOL-once again the uncles coin a term we needed.

    • http://www.ellenciompi.com/ NurseEllen

      We saw “Words & Pictures” last night (Clive Owen, Juliette Binoche). A kind of hybrid of “Dead Poets Society” and “When Harry Met Sally”–star crossed unlikely lovers at a prep school–but not a bad way to spend a couple of hours on a hot & humid Sunday night. Could have benefited from about 10 minutes of judicious editing. That Miss Binoche is the epitome of French woman, you know she’s French just by her looks, which are somehow a combination of sophisticated and adorable.

      • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

        Clive Owen is the man my husband would change teams for, so I guess we’ll have to see that one!

    • Gatto Nero

      TLo , thank you for saving me the time and ticket price.

      Also for the priceless image of you two “on the couch, covered in cats and wine.”

      • kimmeister

        Man, those cats are a bunch of lushes, aren’t they?

        • Sarah

          My catz are all about beer drinkin’ and hell raisin’, so it seems they take the properties of their owners :)

          • kimmeister

            Indeed! My girl cat loves shoes and bags, and my boy cat is a total attention-loving spazz like my husband.

            • mousetomato

              Agreed! My cat loves jelly donuts and jewelry.

    • RescueMe23

      Did Paul Rudd get Judd Apatow’s permission to work with another director?!?!?

      • bailey_ann_dbk

        paul rudd has starred in every single one of david wain’s feature films.

    • Patrick Cleary

      This looks like one of the examples of what I call “comedy comedy,” where the writers just announce to the audience that something is funny, in the hopes that it will replace something that’s actually funny. Unfortunately, Paul Rudd tends to wind up in these types of “comedy comedies.” I would love to see him in more dramatic roles. He’s finally growing out of his puppy paws enough that he could handle a decent political drama.

      • http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/ Tom and Lorenzo

        I think you’ve hit on part of our problem with it: merely acknowledging a cliche exists is not the same thing as parodying it.

        • joything

          I’m sitting here thinking about “Airplane!” and how it cleared that hurdle so deftly that it made the job look easy.

          • bitchybitchybitchy

            That’s odd. John never vomits at home! The “Saturday Night Fever” dance sequence is priceless.

    • Raspberry2012

      Honestly? From your review, it sounds about as much fun as dental surgery. And I’m loathe to say anything like that about Paul Rudd, *or* Amy Poehler. But mostly Paul Rudd.

    • julnyes

      I’m going to skip this movie, but I am going to start saying “I admire your spirit” to people from now on.

    • Therese G.

      Michael Showalter, who’s credited as a co-writer here, wrote and directed a film in 2005 that plays expertly and hilariously with the rom-com genre: The Baxter. The cast includes Showalter and Rudd as well Michelle Williams, Elizabeth Banks and Peter Dinklage. Based on your review, I’d say skip They Came Together and check out The Baxter instead.

      • Katieday

        Ha! I just wrote another comment saying the same thing. They Came Together seemed pretty unnecessary to me, as the rom-com had already been given The State alum treatment (there are so many overlaps in the cast). This was just a series of exaggerated winks at the camera, while The Baxter was actually funny and charming.

    • ballerinawithagun

      It was going to be a rental or Netflix anyway but Paul Rudd is my imaginary boyfriend!

    • Sobaika

      Aww, that’s too bad. The combined efforts of Poehler, Rudd, and Meloni are still enough to keep me interested, mind. What? Those are all awesome people.

    • FinnSteve

      YEAH! Thank you for another movie review. Love these. Please make a regular feature!

    • Katieday

      Hey there – long time reader, first time commenter. You guys are absolutely spot on with this. The various rom-com cliches have around and been acknowledged for so long now and there was noting new or fresh covered here. The film amounted to a series of exaggerated winks at the camera. For a way more enjoyable rom-com skewering, I’d suggest The Baxter, which also has Paul Rudd, Michael Ian Black, David Wain, Ken Marino…

    • Laylalola

      Honestly, the title alone is so awful — I know it’s supposed to be clever, but it’s just not and it has to be indicative of what passes in the film for a sendup. And I just don’t have the patience; it already feels like a chore.

    • Ronnie

      I just saw this movie and this is a great review. I think what David Wain puts out as comedy is something worth watching because certain gags and jokes really hit it hard in this movie. The movie is very silly and fun, however I get the feeling people find it more desperate than amusing.

    • kittentoes

      Covered in cats and wine sounds good.

    • d4divine

      I loved the movie…my husband and I laughed our butts off. This is the 4thbad review of the movie…which would cause me to think it was bad if I hadn’t seen it myself. It’s a parody of a parody….definetly worth the $6.99 VOD

    • Scorsagian

      We saw exactly the same movie! I wanted to like it more than I did.

    • KT

      Totally disagree, I thought it was hilarious. Did you see it on demand or in the theater? I talked to someone else who saw it at home and had the same reaction, though I saw it in the theater and was dying laughing along with the rest of the crowd. Not sure if that made an impact or not, but it’s possible.

      But also, combining satirically cheesy moments with completely insane and over-the-top moments isn’t out of left field at all — it’s pure David Wain. If you’ve seen Wet Hot American Summer or Children’s Hospital, you know that’s his style to a tee — and is very much on display in this movie. It’s a very particular brand of comedy that most people I know don’t like, but I’m such a sucker for it. Strangers with Candy is the same way in my opinion — not a David Wain joint, but a similar brand of comedy.

      And the moment Michael Shannon got shot in the face made me lose my shit. YOU CAN’T TELL ME THAT WASN’T TOTALLY UNEXPECTED AND WRONG AND HILARIOUS ALL AT ONCE

    • boweryboy

      Never heard of it. Thanks for steering me clear of it when it becomes available on instant streaming.

    • http://gabyrippling.tumblr.com/ Gaby

      This reminds me of my reaction to Bridesmaids. Rather than finding it laugh-out-loud hilarious, I found it incredibly depressing (and I don’t like gross-out humor so I was just “bleh” during the scene in the bridal store). Granted, I had also just had a falling out with my then-close friend, so that colored my view and made me extra teary while watching it.

    • Dee

      I cannot express how deeply my love runs for Paul Rudd. Also a big fan of Amy Poehler’s. But I agree completely with this review. In fact, when my husband asked me what I thought of the movie, I said the exact same thing as TLo. The script is clever and does a great job taking down rom coms for their ridiculousness. But it didn’t make me actually laugh. And that made me sad. Kudos to the writers for pointing out how predictable every rom com is, which is why they drive me insane and I don’t watch them – except when Paul Rudd is the lead. My love for Mr. Rudd will go on. Maybe I will meet him in person one day at Cup of Joel.

    • Cate

      Good review. Very fair. The movie sounds like it’s kind of similar to “Walk Hard”. Funny people in it, but the parody was TOO accurate and TOO good-natured to be that humorous or distinctive. It just felt like watching a boring version of “Walk the Line” than an actual comedic parody of it.

    • Skippymom1

      I am pretty sure Paul Rudd took graduate levels of “Chemistry with your Leading Lady” in college. The man could get a couch interested in him.

    • Presumptuous Insect

      Dreadful. I could not sit through the whole thing. Not a single laugh, and I was getting more and more glum as the excruciating minutes went by.

    • Virginia Lee

      This is not a movie, it’s a smug thesis.