Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) are enjoying dinner with a pair of friends when a familiar subject arises: How did the two of you meet? They exchange a knowing glance, and one of them says, “Well, it kinda sounds like something out of a romantic comedy”. Cue the blaring Frank Sinatra tune and aerial shot of New York City. And so begins They Came Together, a lampoon of every annoying rom com trope to ever appear in date-night sappy cinema. Even the generic title of the film makes a double entendre out of generic comedy titles.
Joel works for a giant candy conglomerate where he is bucking for a promotion from a boss who barely knows who he is. When he discovers his primary rival at work is sleeping with his girlfriend, Joel agrees to attend a Halloween costume party and meet a blind date, Molly (Amy Poehler). Their awkward introduction goes even further awry when Joel learns that Molly owns Upper Sweet Side, a small candy shop that is soon to be consumed by the mega-corporation who writes Joel’s paychecks.
How many romantic comedies can you name that fall inside the parameters of those plot clichés? And that’s the point of They Came Together. The plot exists solely as fodder for parody. Joel has a multi-racial group of friends who advise him about his love life as they ineptly shoot hoops in the park. Molly’s best friend is an African American woman who works at her candy shop and helps her decide what to wear on her date during the obligatory multi-outfit montage sequence. We get the never-ending fall in love, break up, fall in love, break up cycle complete with Joel walking aimlessly in the rain looking forlorn.
They Came Together pokes fun at these plot contrivances along with the inane dialogue, distractingly colorful minor characters and emotional manipulation found in the best and worst romantic comedies. It’s an Airplane-esque skewering of the genre that never rises to the level of that iconic parody. The jokes are fast and furious and land with varying degrees of success. Some of the more clever bits are repeated a few times too many, and unfortunately, the script chooses to have the characters explain the more subtle moments of the parody.
At 85 minutes, They Came Together doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. Just as the proceedings start to feel like a Saturday Night Live sketch that has gone on too long, something genuinely funny will rescue the film and send it careening in a new direction. The final five minutes alone make the film worth watching with their over-the-top depiction of the over-the-top endings so common in romantic comedies. As the credits rolled, I wondered if one’s enjoyment of They Came Together is directly proportional to one’s dislike of the rom com genre because it felt funnier than it actually was.
In our busy work-a-day lives with career demands and child rearing responsibilities, we often find ourselves flopping down on the sofa and thinking, “I’m too tired to concentrate on anything. Is there a dumb comedy we can turn on?” Yes, there is. It’s called They Came Together. And it’s available on VOD.
The Movie Isle
Scott Phillips holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Georgia and is currently a member of the Georgia Film Critics Association (GAFCA). In addition to his role as a correspondent for Timed Edition, Scott serves as the Executive Editor and Senior Writer for themovieisle.com. From 2013 through 2017, he reviewed films for filmdispenser.com. Along with his duties as a critic, Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every fall.