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Release Date: June 27, 2014 (Limited and VOD)
Director: David Wain
MPAA Rating: R

Since first discovering MTV’s The State as a child, I’ve been a fan of David Wain’s irreverent yet clever style of comedy, and Wain’s Wet Hot American Summer remains one of my personal favorites. In Wet Hot, Wain took on the ’80s summer camp film and made what would later become a cult classic. Now, he’s set his crosshairs on the dreaded rom-com and aiming to deconstruct everything that makes the formulaic genre tick in his latest film, They Came Together.

They Came Together is a tough film to criticize because it succeeds in achieving what it’s setting out to do. It’s a pitch-perfect recreation of every romantic comedy set in New York – where, like the film repeats, you could say New York is almost its own character in the movie. One of the biggest problems in doing this of course is that this film itself must be formulaic.

It deftly hits all the predictable beats of a romantic comedy, with leads Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler as the quintessential couple, awkwardly meeting for the first time, falling in love, breaking up, then getting back together. Poehler’s character Molly owns a quirky mom-and-pop candy store and, of course, Rudd’s character Joel works as an executive for a giant candy conglomerate.

One would think the film would be rife with comedy (and the jokes per minute are indeed high), but They Came Together is never really as funny as it wants to be. And maybe that’s the point of the entire film – to expose the ridiculous nature of the romantic comedy and showcase how bland the genre really is. Unfortunately, while there are sporadic moments of genuine humor, many of the gags simply don’t work.

The film is co-written by Wain and Michael Showalter and plays out very much like Wet Hot American Summer, however it’s lacking the comedic spark that made that film so enjoyable. There’s a large number of very funny people in this movie aside from Rudd and Poehler, including Ed Helms, Bill Hader, Keenan Thompson, Jason Mantzoukas, Christopher Meloni, Ellie Kemper, Michael Ian Black, Max Greenfield, Jack McBrayer and Ken Marino, but most of their talents are squandered. Save a few moments that are incredibly funny, the film’s story is so sporadic that the jokes quickly get lost in the shuffle in the setup for the next gag.

Like many of those movies, the story is lacking and ends up feeling like a series of interconnected SNL sketches than an actual cohesive plot. There are a few solid laughs though, and if you ever had to suffer through a romantic comedy in the past, you’ll know that this film expertly captures just how silly they really are.

They Came Together works well as a spoof – and does a better job of capturing the absurdity of its prototypes than the recent film A Million Ways to Die in the West – but much of the intentional humor just falls flat.

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