Sunday, September 14, 2014

They Came Together

***1/2 out of ****

New on Blu-ray and DVD, They Came Together is a film that stars Paul Rudd as an executive at a heartless conglomerate and Amy Poehler as a small business owner at risk of losing her store to the major competition. The two soon meet one another, where rivalry ensues –and then romance –and then rivalry again. That’s a surface-level description. If it sounds familiar, it’s intentional. This movie is the latest comedy from the hilarious David Wain who borrows from You’ve Got Mail and countless other yuppy-centric movies to do a rather funny lampoon on modern romantic comedies.

Instead of a bookstore, it’s a cute little candy shop and the evil corporation with a high-rise tower is completely devoted to monopolizing the business of candy. In the pursuit of romance, Poehler’s character has a co-worker/best friend who is an unrealistically giving person. Rudd’s character confides in bunch of bros down at the basketball court who play (badly) while offering conflicting advice, based on whichever male archetype they literally claim to be.

Along with Christopher Meloni, Bill Hader, Ellie Kemper, Max Greenfield, Ed Helmes, Cobie Smulders, Michael Ian Black and way too many people to list, this New York-set rom-com mockery swells with brilliant delivery of absurd exchanges.

I laughed throughout this whole film, but I won’t be quick to give it a broad recommendation. For a guy who sees way too many movies, a flick like this feels like a liberating escape. To someone else, it may come across as obnoxious. There are also people who don’t get this kind of humor, sadly lacking the capability of understanding a movie that refuses to take itself seriously in any way.

There are other movies, which have honorably spoofed a genre using similar tactics. Black Dynamite spoofed blaxpoitation better than any other film that tried. Down with Love was a very clever take on the Doris Day and Rock Hudson sex comedies of the Kennedy era. One of my absolute favorites, however, was David Wain’s first film, Wet Hot American Summer, which was a send-up of summer camp comedies of the 1980s.

Wain’s material, with the help of his longtime co-writer Michael Schowalter has a knack for following the path of formulaic entertainment only to address every cliché as it is met, by either overplaying it or subverting our expectations in an outrageously inappropriate way.

One of the most unforgettable examples of this can be found in Wet Hot where the teen counselors go into town to get away from the campground for a bit. What follows is a joyous montage with happy eighties rock playing as they party a little while engaging in the benefits of being away from their responsibilities. They eat a little McDonalds and then score a pack of beer, some cigs, and a little weed… Before you know it, they steal a purse from an old lady, buy some heroin in an alley and are then seen passed out in shambles while lurking in a crack house. Then it shows them return to camp, all smiles, in perfect health with the implication that only an hour has passed.

Watch that scene here

His comedy trio Stella, with his co-creator Michaels (Ian Black and Showalter), was also an energetic abandonment of logic or any seriousness. In the form of stage show, internet shorts and a short-lived TV show, the three well-dressed men try to fit in with society while their hijinks leave a path of destruction, but will always inexplicably find reward in the end. 

Wain later moved on to do a trio of movies with co-writer/actor, Ken Marino. The first was sketch comedy movie called The Ten, which was a series of short films -all supposedly reflecting each of the Ten Commandments. Their oddball comedy was followed by Role Models and Wanderlust, which were both comparatively grounded with a more standard comic narrative. They both had a good deal of hilarity but I felt as though Wain and his The State alum were falling into a less adventurous format in favor more conventional comedy.

While They Came Together isn’t nearly as funny as Wet Hot, I still felt a good deal of satisfaction watching a film where Wain gets back to the style that best suits him. I’ve always had a weakness for irreverence when it comes to getting a laugh. From The Marx Brothers to Monty Python and the Holy Grail to the Naked Gun movies and even Alex Winter's little-known insane feature, Freaked, I will always favor comedy that has the courage to abandon all reason.

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