Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins Ranked From Best To Worst: Every Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner Ranked From Best To Worst: Every Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck The 10 Best Films Of 2002 The 10 Best Films Of 2002 Check Out These Minimalist, Old School Paperback-Style Posters For The Films Of Wes Anderson Check Out These Minimalist, Old School Paperback-Style Posters For The Films Of Wes Anderson First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' The 30 Most Anticipated Movies Of The 2015 Sundance Film Festival The 30 Most Anticipated Movies Of The 2015 Sundance Film Festival The 10 Best Films Of 2001 The 10 Best Films Of 2001 2015 Oscar Nominees Get The Honest Poster Treatment 2015 Oscar Nominees Get The Honest Poster Treatment Watch: Full 90-Minute Documentary 'Great Directors' With David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Todd Haynes And More Watch: Full 90-Minute Documentary 'Great Directors' With David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Todd Haynes And More "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice The 20 Most Anticipated Foreign Films Of 2015 The 20 Most Anticipated Foreign Films Of 2015 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point

Sundance Review: David Wain's 'They Came Together' Gives Assembly-Line Rom-Coms A Brisk, Bruising Rebuttal

The Playlist By James Rocchi | The Playlist January 25, 2014 at 5:04PM

A parody that loves, knows and understands what it’s mocking, David Wain’s “They Came Together” (co-written with Michael Showalter) lovingly nuzzles up to the plots, clichés and tropes of the modern big-studio rom-com specifically, only to then slash at the jugular to spill their anemic, overly sweet blood. It knows how to mock cliché big things, like jokes about set-dressing and music video montages; it’s also wise about small matters, right down to the font and the framing device.
2
They Came Together

A parody that loves, knows and understands what it’s mocking, David Wain’s “They Came Together” (co-written with Michael Showalter) lovingly nuzzles up to the plots, clichés and tropes of the modern big-studio rom-com specifically, only to then slash at the jugular to spill their anemic, overly sweet blood. It knows how to mock cliché big things, like jokes about set-dressing and music video montages; it’s also wise about small matters, right down to the font and the framing device. Molly (Amy Poehler) is a lovable klutz who owns a small candy shop in New York; Joel (Paul Rudd) is a good, non-threateningly handsome man who happens to work for the candy mega-corporation that’s about to knock Molly’s tiny shop out of business. Any similarities to “You’ve Got Mail”—or “When Harry Met Sally,” or “Jerry Maguire,” or “Along Came Polly” or any one of a host of grindingly generic modern rom-coms—are purely intentional, with a script that combines broad, ludicrous potshots with precise, devastating sniper-fire.

They Came Together

Much like Wain and Showalter’s previous “Wet Hot American Summer,” though, “They Came Together” straddles the line between homage and satire superbly; demolition only requires a hammer, after all, while deconstruction requires knowledge and care. A sequence where Rudd plays basketball with his guys—Ken Marino as a shaggy-haired lothario, Jack McBrayer as a cardigan-clad gentleman, Kenan Thompson as a married dad and Jason Mantzouakas as a kindly co-worker—includes an out-loud explanation of how all of them, collectively, represent different aspects of Rudd’s Joel, and hence have advice to offer. There are some incredibly dumb jokes as well, like when Rudd’s sob story to a bartender becomes an unbreakable loop on the level of “Source Code,” while a bit of painful literalism in a restaurant wouldn’t be out of place in a Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker film.

It’s also worth noting that “They Came Together” never outstays its welcome; it’s in, out and over with in a sprightly 85 minutes, moving swiftly and leaving scorched earth in its wake. Godard said “to criticize a movie, you have to make another movie,” and even with discreet poop jokes and Christopher Meloni in a wig so majestic it deserves its own billing, Wain and Showalter are pretty much doing exactly that here.

Rudd, a veteran of several rom-coms, navigates the comedy with game, goofiness and good humor; Amy Poehler, who has yet to debase herself with a montage-laden, mediocre rom-com, rises to the challenge with authority, verve and a great Dickensian costuming joke. Even if every plot-thread doesn’t get tied with a bow, well, you also get ludicrous, lunging make-up sex between Rudd and ex Cobie Smulders, acted out by the gifted contortionists and athletes of the Pilobolus Dance Company; if there’s a better example of the stupid-smart balance and blend “They Came Together” pulls off, I can’t think of one. Yes, spoofing the modern Manhattan rom-com is an exercise in shooting fish in a barrel—and yet Wain and Showalter are aided and abetted by a ludicrously talented cast (all of the above, plus Max Greenfield, Ed Helms, Michael Ian Black, Teyonah Parris and a few choice cameos) that keeps their aim true and the bloodletting brief. A strange, funny mockery of an all-too-familiar weak-as-cold-tea combination of form, feeling and filmmaking that big-studio Rom-coms churn off an assembly line, “They Came Together” has a silly, goofy smile and a sharp, savage bite. [B+]

Browse through all our coverage of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival by clicking here. 

They Came Together

This article is related to: They Came Together, David Wain, Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Michael Showalter, Ken Marino, Cobie Smulders, Sundance Film Festival, Reviews, Review, Michael Ian Black


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates