I bet if we scoured filmmaker David Wain’s DVD collection, we would find romantic comedies. A lot of them. It takes a certain kind of guilty affection to lampoon a genre this immaculately.
That’s what the absurdist has done with fellow writing cohort Michael Showalter. The two collaborated on the cult hit Wet Hot American Summer – which took the piss out of camp movies – and now they go for the rom-com jugular with the ridiculous and accuratly funny flick They Came Together. The film certainly benefits from Showalter’s talents since his directorial debut The Baxter is an adorable yet goofball view on the sugary genre.
The difference between Wet Hot American Summer and They Came Together is that the former works by itself as straight-up comedy. If you didn’t have any knowledge of Meatballs, you could still find humour in the film’s eccentricities. They Came Together relies more on rom-com cliches and cheesy beats that accompany them. If this species of date movie isn’t up your alley, a majority of the jokes will either sail over your head or appear to be too campy.
As someone who has seen many of these cutesy formulaic flicks, I can say that Wain has hit the nail on the head with emphasizing just how silly everything in a romantic comedy is. What’s even more impressive is that he’s managed to make us laugh without making the audience think he’s beating a dead horse or going for easy punchlines.
Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler play the film’s star-crossed lovers, Joel and Molly. Poehler works at a modest lil’ candy shop, and Rudd works at one of those corporate candy companies who mow down local businesses. When paired on a blind date to a Halloween party, the two are acquainted and start their relationship on a sour note. But, once Molly finds out Joel likes fiction books, potential love starts to blossom.
Joel has a group of guy pals who always have the right relationship advice as they shoot hoops. Or, at least try to. As over-the-top dialogue is being read off by “the guys”, they’re overshooting the net and slamming the backboard. Everyone’s oblivious to how badly they suck.
That’s the type of humour you get with They Came Together. It’s the same type of absurdist material Wain and Showalter deliver with a certain matter-of-fact tone. It’s the type of humour that Wain has managed to make a voice out of in films like The Ten, Role Models, and Comedy Central’s short lived TV show Stella.
As you’ve witnessed, it’s tough to describe a joke of theirs through the written word to someone trying to get a sense of what the film is like. Luckily, everyone who has signed on to act in the movie are in on the spoof and know exactly how to convey it without acting smug. Before you know it, you’ll get swept up in the joke too.
In a recent interview with NOW Magazine’s Norm Wilner, Wain described They Came Together as a movie he had to wait for the audience to catch up on. I started getting weary. I had a slight worry that while the film may meet its goal, it would end up being too proud of itself. The trailer shows this balancing act quite well – hoping to make movie goers curious enough to see the movie to find out if it’s successful with the high-wire act.
They Came Together meets its goal, but also portrays itself as a project that’s always in check no matter how crazy things get. Wain knows how goofy this world is, and he makes sure he never oversells the crazy. That says a lot when the man is trying to shoot a sensual scene between Joel and his bubbie.
That’s as much as I can provide you with. They Came Together is either going to be for you, or repel you away instantly with its off-beat personality. I sure hope you can join me in the camp of people who laughed their face off every step of the way.