Sunday, September 21, 2014

Movie Review: "They Came Together"

Starring Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Cobie Smulders, Christopher Meloni, Max Greenfield, Bill Hader, Ellie Kemper, Jason Mantzoukas, Melanie Lynskey and Ed Helms
Directed by David Wain

There are some movie genres that seem to be setting themselves up to be skewered — probably none more so than the romantic comedy. That’s the goal of “They Came Together,” which also serves as a practical reunion of the cast of “Wet Hot American Summer,” the 2001 comedy that marked the feature film directorial debut of David Wain.

Here, Wain teams up with longtime friend and collaborator Michael Showalter on a script that is riddled with cliches and occupied with broadly and poorly developed characters. However, that was the filmmakers’ intent, and while the movie definitely generates some legitimate laughs, it never hits the manic, anything-for-a-laugh spirit of spoofs like “Airplane” and “The Naked Gun.” At times, the movie clearly has an aim at ridiculous sight gags and literal interpretation of dialogue that those popular 1980s-era films did, but with sporadic success. It tries to wink at its audience a bit too much, as you practically expect the characters to look into the camera every few minutes.

The cast certainly does all it can to move the very slender story along, with Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler portraying the romantic leads, Joel and Molly, who meet on the way to a Halloween party (where both are dressed as Ben Franklin, naturally), and instantly hate each other. But as the genre dictates, that hate turns to love in fairly quick succession, even as a corporate candy company for which Joel works looks to open up a candy superstore and close down Molly’s little candy shop (Upper Sweet Side) in the process. Will their love survive?

Actually the movie is hardly concerned with the story as anything but a series of scenes in which to hang their jokes. More land than flop, but not by a large margin. Clearly, the cast is on board with the material, as Wain gets an immeasurable amount of help from a strong collection of comedy veterans. (Rudd, in particular, has brought a winning everyman quality to past Wain projects, including “Role Models” and “Wanderlust”).

“They Came Together” ultimately is a bit of a letdown, yet still funny through sheer force of will from its game cast. If it were a candy, you’d probably still eat it, but maybe not buy it again.

Grade: B-
(Rated R for language and sexual content.)

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