Sundance 2014: They Came Together reaction

A fun if patchy rom-com parody

 

If there's one genre that's absolutely rife for the lampooning, it's the rom-com.

Yet while horror, action-adventure and disaster movies have all been ribbed over the years, cinema's steered clear of poking fun at one of the most conventional, repetitive and eye-rolling of subjects.

Like a feature-length version of the superbly cliched spoof 'rom-com-within-a-rom-com' idolised by Scarlett Johansson in last year's Don Jon,They Came Together ticks every cheese-tastic plot and performance box you can imagine.

The story  is as un-original and wryly familiar as you'd imagine, following the, well, coming together of free-spirited and independent small business owner Molly (Amy Poehler) and corporate drone Joel (Paul Rudd). When Joel's BigEvilCorporation™ decides to open its giant candy store right across the way from Molly's super-kitsch sweet shop, the pair are forced to re-evaluate what's really important in life as they fall in love over blah blah blah. You get the generic picture.

When the jokes hit, it's hilarious - having the tale told through flashback, over a dinner in which Joel, Molly and their friends repeatedly acknowledge the preposterous, cliched nature of the narrative is regularly amusing. Add to that the fun found in accentuating and then attacking the normal rom-com staples (meet-cutes, awkward parent dinners, breaking-up-then-making-up, the annoyingly emotionally attached child from a previous relationship, and wise old grandmas all get a look in), and it's a consistently amusing ride.

Yet like most parodies, the pacing often falters, and one-note jokes are bludgeoned over the head in the hope of nailing the so-repetitive-it's-not-funny-then-actually-quite-funny again cycle of ridiculousness. Much like director David Wain's previous lampoon Wet Hot American Summer, your enjoyment will ultimately boil down to how ready and willing you are to embrace a stupidly silly but repetitive gag.

Still, even if the laughs peter out, your enjoyment doesn't, thanks mainly to a comedic cast on top form, with Poehler and Rudd ably supported by Ed helms, Cobie Smulders, Max Greenfield and two particularly inspired and very bizarre cameos.

As a deconstruction of the genre, it does the job, but as a solid comedy, it doesn't quite - ahem - come together.

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