I’m the same age as Paul Rudd, so I find it comforting to see him growing imperceptibly older; he’s ideally cast in this rom-com that’s a parody of rom-coms. There’s a fairly rigid rom-com structure that evolved from a glut of product in the mid nineties and the Richard Curtis-Nancy Meyers axis of cuteness that emerged featuring comedy swearing, sex jokes, pop music needle-drops, commitment issues and other staples to be pressed into service with varying degrees of success. Writer director David Wain, working with Michael Showalter on the script, pulls together exactly the right kind of glossy package, peopled with a plethora of comic actors very much in on the joke.
Rudd plays ‘Billy’ Joel, better known as Joel, a Candy executive who works for a sinister skyscraper-based company CSR, who looks set to put local businesses in Manhattan out of business, namely tiny shop Upper Sweet Side, run with complete ineptitude by Molly (Amy Poehler). Molly doesn’t even sell candy, she just gives sweets away to strangers for the good of it, and with such a rigorous business plan, can’t understand why the cash register of her business is always empty. She’s the very opposite of Joel, but when the two finally meet, they end up falling for each other…
…the whole story is told, in Harry Met Sally flashback style, to Ellie Kemper and Bill Hader as two friends attempting to understand how relationships work; the setting is NYC, of course, a location that’s almost like a character in this story. Wain favours exaggeration over actual gags, although the ones he goes for land; Molly complains she ‘looks like a chimney sweep’ when Joel makes a surprise visit to the store, and indeed she does, complete with brush. There’s also some reflexive Scream-style ruminations on the nature of how rom-coms work, from pointed plot plotting to over emphasis of themes; Joel is constantly reminded of his lack of commitment, and it’s as obvious a narrative plant as Molly dropping into conversation the specific location she’d go to in a crisis, ready for future reference.
They Came Together is a bright, quite charming comedy with makes fun of rom-conventions while slavishly following them. There’s funny turns from Adam Scott, Ed Helms and Judge Judy, and a licenced musical interlude with Norah Jones. They Came Together doesn’t quite go full Naked Gun slapstick, and maybe that’s the right choice for 2014; Rudd and Poeher make a great team, and Wain’s film makes them the centre of an amusing pastiche with the requisite amount of d*ck jokes and warm and fuzzy feels.