Overview: A couple on a double date reminisce about their relationship, which unfolds just like a romantic comedy. Except, you know, it’s real life. 2014, Lions Gate Entertainment, rated R, 83 minutes.
The Comedy A-Team: Director David Wain boasts an all-star comedic cast, with Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd headlining a spoof of the romantic comedy genre. Joel (Rudd) and Molly (Poehler) tell the tale of their cheesy, rom-com inspired love story while every star from Kenan Thompson to John Stamos stops by to say hello. Except Chrisopher Meloni, who pops in for a few extra minutes to shit himself in a superhero costume. The insufferable cameos along with the chopped narrative establish a feel more like an extended SNL skit than a movie, and because it feels specifically like one of the forgettable skits you’d find in the second half of SNL, it makes 83 minutes feel more like 3 hours. When Joel and Molly’s unassuming dinner companions attempt to leave the table prematurely, I wanted to get up and go too. But we all have to wait for them to finish, because after all, They Came Together.
It’s A Parody, Get It?: Wain, along with Michael Showalter (the duo also responsible for Wet Hot American Summer) treat the audience like complete morons who can’t be trusted to understand a single reference without them pointing and waving. They’re either so impressed with themselves that they can’t help it, or they just really want to make sure we’re all on the same page. You’ve Got Mail did happen 15 years ago, so maybe some of us need that extra wink as a reminder of how relevant these jokes might have been back then (but they certainly aren’t now). Oh, you’re making fun of romantic comedies, we had no idea! Several times I half expected someone to walk across the screen holding a sign that says “Applause.”
Poehler and Rudd do their best to wade through all of the heavy handed parody to create some genuinely funny moments, created mostly by their subtle facial expressions and easy delivery. When Poehler throws a flower pot against the wall to recreate the typical eager, clothes strewn everywhere sex scene and they fall asleep while making out fully dressed, viewers don’t need to be reminded that we’re supposed to laugh. We just do it. If They Came Together would have relied on its cleverness alone without calling incessant attention to it, this movie could have been smart and funny rather than simply obnoxious. If you can’t depend on your audience to pick up on the humor of the genre you’re parodying, you probably shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.