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Josh Reviews They Came Together

They Came Together was released to select theaters on June 27, but it never opened anywhere around me.  However, I was pleased to discover that the film is available to watch on VOD through iTunes and amazon.  Right now, from the comfort of your own home!  Just click here and watch!

You really should, too, because this send-up of romantic comedies by director David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer, Wanderlust) is fantastic and boasts an extraordinary ensemble of comedic performers.  The film stars Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler and also features Ed Helms, Bill Hader, Ellie Kemper, Jason Mantzoukas, Cobie Smulders, Christopher Meloni, Jack McBrayer, Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino, Melanie Lynskey, and many other fantastic men and women who you’ll probably recognize.  I cannot believe this film is not getting a wide release!  (Is the I-can’t-believe-they-got-away-with-it dirty title holding the film back??)

They Came Together tells the story of the torturous path to romance followed by made-for-one-another couple Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler).  I really don’t want to tell you anything more than that, because the fun of the film is watching hapless Joel and Molly stumble through every single cliche romantic comedy plot-twist that you could possibly think of.

It’s really quite brilliant.  There are some very specific references (I myself was very taken by the film’s version of the trip to meet the wealthy Christian in-laws from Annie Hall) and also a lot of more generalized messing around with the types of scenes we have all seen a million times in romantic comedies.  (The way Joel and his brother each give a tender “thanks” to one another after a heart-felt moment had me in stitches.)  There’s some nerdy clever humor in the film and also some very low-brow, silly humor.  There are a few very literal scenes that would have felt at home in Airplane! (such as the moment in which Joel and his bartender go through a “you can say that again” routine about ten times).  There are also some extremely random digressions (such as a stunningly bizarre sequence in which Joel’s boss is unable to unzip his super-hero Halloween costume when he has to go to the bathroom).  Not every one of these jokes lands, but there are always about ten more jokes coming right on its heels, so I found myself laughing pretty consistently throughout.

The film has a playful, anything-for-a-laugh approach that at times can make the film’s narrative feel choppy, but which I found quite endearing.  There’s one moment when we suddenly discover that Molly has a young son, which provides a great opportunity to get this film’s silly version of the classic romantic comedy moment in which our hero proves how much better he is than the heroine’s other boorish boyfriends by bonding with her son.  Following that scene, my wife then got a little annoyed that we never see Molly’s son again, but I found that to be hilarious.  The son was only necessary for that one scene, and then the movie moved on to the next type of familiar romantic comedy scene to parody, without worrying about continuity.

The weakest part of the film, in my opinion, is the framing structure.  The whole film is structured as a story that Joel and Molly are telling to two friends (played by Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper) over dinner.  There are some huge laughs in the moments when we cut back to those two couples, but also an unfortunate tendency to have the characters comment on a variation of “this is just like a dumb romantic comedy!” over and over again.  We get it!!!  This is a parody of romantic comedies!!  It feels like the film-makers included this device because at some point in production they lost some faith in the film’s concept.  I think the story would have done just fine on its own, and while loosing the framing device would have meant losing some great jokes, I think over-all that would have strengthened the film.

They Came Together might be a little too uneven to call it a comedic home-run, but it is very very funny, and I found it to be incredibly on-the-mark in the way it savagely takes apart the familiar tropes of romantic comedies.  If you’ve ever rolled your eyes at a romantic comedy, you’re going to enjoy this film.  With this all-star cast, let me repeat that I am shocked this film is not getting a wider release.  I advise you to seek it out.

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