Romantic comedies have always been a walking cliché. They’re practically procedural cop shows minus the cops. And who better to star in an entire movie spoofing them, other than the comedic Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler? While Rudd and Poehler try very hard to come off as the cheesy romantic comedy couple,the movie is largely underwhelming and only contains a bit of humor from what we’ve come to expect from both actors.
A lot of movies in the past have used up a lot of energy spoofing specific films, mostly horror or teen films, but They Came Together takes its time spoofing the entire romantic comedy genre, the script not even pretending to be a legitimate take on what has become the ideal notion of what relationships should be (if a romance movie is even considered ideal to start with). The dialogue is made up completely of exposition and over-the-top fanfare, regaling the audience with what’s happening and what will happen based on the aforementioned stereotypes of the genre.
The film follows the basic outline of a romantic comedy, except Joel (Rudd) and Molly (Poehler) are telling their story to their friends Karen (Ellie Kemper) and Kyle (Bill Hader) over dinner. Karen and Kyle are essentially the audience and we go back and forth as we examine Joel and Molly’s story as told by them. There’s the sexy, cheating girlfriend (Cobie Smulders) who breaks Joel’s heart, the nice guy on the side (Ed Helms) who attempts to steal Molly’s heart, and the loyal, advice-giving best friends who are always there for them like they have no lives of their own.
While They Came Together has plenty of good moments and funny spoofs, it is overshadowed by its amount of aggression in its attack at the genre. Simply put, the film tries too hard to be funny and satirical and it shows. A lot of it feels like it’s a prolonged version of a Saturday Night Live skit. This format doesn’t work for the film because in the moments where it is funny, you’re torn between laughing and shaking your head at its repetitiveness, which it does… a lot.
The movie does do well in including practically everything that is annoying about romantic comedies a lot of the time: falling in love extremely quickly, finding out they don’t love a side character because they don’t have that ONE thing in common (“I love reading fiction books!”, “Me too!”), running out the day of the wedding, and long speeches at the end where everyone claps. There’s even a fun montage where Rudd’s and Poehler’s characters are falling in love and includes scenes of laughing, playing with vegetables at a stand and running around, constantly smiling at each other, all set to a love song by Norah Jones (whom they visit in the montage, with cameos by Adam Scott and John Stamos).
Ultimately, the film has all the parts of something great, but doesn’t quite know how to fit these parts together for a completely satisfying film. Rudd and Poehler each bring their own spin on things, and they look like they’re having a fun time saying lines they know sound completely ridiculous, but the film itself is better off as some comedy skit rather than a full-length movie. It has some genuinely funny moments, but also has a lot of repetition that comes off a bit forced and uneven. In the end, it’s not nearly as funny as it should be, but one can appreciate their attempt at spoofing a genre that’s become tiresome to watch.