They Came Together was certainly fun while it was going on…

by Steve Pulaski

David Wain’s They Came Together plays like a seventy-eight minute long Saturday Night Live skit, even more-so with the presence of the show’s recent alumni like Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, and Kenan Thompson. But to be fair, it’s one of the skits that doesn’t make for a necessarily bad feature film; a long-winded one, absolutely, but not one I’d frown upon. Wain and co-writer Michael Showalter (who both teamed up when working on the now cult-classic Wet Hot American Summer) seemed to have had a boatload of fun writing this film, as they poke fun at the common tropes of romantic comedies by addressing the cliches, the inanities, and the zaniness by parodying the likes in a fun, breezy piece of lightweight entertainment.

The film begins by showing a casual dinner between Joel and Molly (Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler) and their friends Kyle and Brenda (Bill Hader and Melanie Lynskey), which, after a few seconds, finds a way to detour into how Joel and Molly actually met. Hesitant to tell the story because of the fact it plays out like a quirky, American romantic comedy, Joel and Molly feel pressured but begin to tell it anyway. What unfolds is an experience almost too quirky and self-aware to explain, but I’ll do my best. She was an ambitious and cheery young woman working in her own small candy shop just a block away from where he worked, at a larger, corporate candy company that wants to close her small little shop. Yet even with this roadblock, the two find themselves in love over time, when they realize they like the same oddball things and can both make each other giggle at their own little eccentricities.

They Came Together
Directed by
David Wain
Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader
Release Date
27 June 2014
Steve’s Grade: B

As someone who has been an active critic of American romance films and romantic comedies, a film like They Came Together was much needed. The film works to lampoon the bizarre circumstances often found in those kind of films, while basking in the asinine qualities of its premise and its corresponding characters. As I said, explaining this is no fun, for the real treat comes when watching the film. To see the common cliches of romantic comedies exaggerated (and sometimes, portrayed accurately within their means, which can prove to be just as crazy as if they were indeed exaggerated) makes for a considerable amount of fun.

Wain and Showalter’s main misstep has been before, however, which is their failure to do much for the material besides use it as a showcase for the ridiculous qualities of romance films. Admittedly, there is little innovation here in terms of story other than the final scene. One could easily call me out and ask why I enjoyed this film way more than your average parody film made by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. The answer is simply – They Came Together is funnier. It actually knows its territory more-so than just stringing along random instances of comedy and works to create characters and chemistry we can appreciate and admire because of the absurdist circumstances they get wrapped up in. Friedberg and Seltzer struggle to even name their characters as they focus heavily on the inclusion of pop culture zingers and movie characters, almost as if we’re supposed to laugh simply because we have seen those characters in other movies and those celebrities in tabloids.

I was no fan of Wain’s Wet Hot American Summer, which I found to be almost entirely boring and void of humor. With They Came Together, he gives himself a chance to broaden his own personal humor horizons while simultaneously giving audiences an opportunity to (a) laugh at the film at hand and (b) laugh at themselves for seeing those kinds of films. Its long-term impact is questionable, but They Came Together was certainly fun while it was going on, which is more that can be said about half of American romance films/romantic comedies.