The smartest spoofs secretly love the genre they’re slapping about for laughs. Under the relentless rain of gags unleashed in David Wain’s mirthful but merciless satire of New York romcoms, lies a nugget of affection making it as acute as his cult teen-tease Wet Hot American Summer (2001). But he and co-writer Michael Showalter don’t spare lovebirds molly and Joel (Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd, both exuding weapons-grade affability).
As her indie sweetshop is menaced by his candy corporation’s megastore and his sexy ex (a smouldering Cobie smulders) rocks their romance, the path of true love is strewn with meet-cutes, klutzy sex, and no-hope nuptials. We’re parked firmly in Ephrontown, with a view of Woody-world. Take a drink every time you spot a pitch-perfect steal from Manhattan, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless In Seattle or You’ve Got Mail and you’ll be legless before the first kiss.
Wain’s world is an unrepentantly wacky one, with an Airplane!-style fizzy mix of verbal, visual and raunch gags shaking up the sharp-eyed spoofing. His absurdist streak pushes things way beyond Scary Movie yucks, as when Joel and a barman enter into an exchange of “You can say that again!” and ‘tell me about it’ that threatens to become endless.
But the downside to the film’s pacey gag race is that sketch-comedy shtick overwhelms the plot periodically – a more solid story would have helped when things get plotless in Manhattan. Wain’s great eye for details (right down to cheesy romcom edits, music and décor) sadly doesn’t extend to the visuals, with the film sporting an over-lit TV-movie look.
What keeps things bubbling are Rudd and Poehler’s superb central performances, which exploit their existing screen personas (boyish vs a-dork-able) and their fine comic chemistry together. Rudd, who plays it straighter than a ruler, uses that good-guy grin to make the film’s mood hilariously sweet, rather than snarky.
Adorable, acidly funny and absurd in equal measures, this bouncy, gag-packed romcom spoof ain’t quite as funny as it thinks. But when Paul meets Amy, they’ll have you at ‘Hello’…