They Came Together is a brand new comedy starring Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler, with appearances by such actors as Ed Helms and Bill Hader. Let’s pause for a moment because I know what you’re thinking: “how have I not heard of this before?”
Valid question! With big name stars like that, you’d think the movie would be all over the place, but for some reason it’s gone way under the radar, only playing at a small number of theaters and being pushed straight to on-demand sites. As it turns out, that ‘some reason’ is actually a pretty good one: They Came Together is weird. Far, far too weird for most audiences.
It’s also stupid. Not accidentally stupid, like A Million Ways to Die in the West. No, this is advanced stupid. Intentional, unapologetic stupid. I’m talking constant “what the hell am I even watching” territory. One scene turns into a lengthy music video promoting the film itself. Does that sound like it could get annoying? Oh, it often is. But in my mind, it’s also amazing.
The film’s flagrant, merciless idiocy is the result of the movie’s director David Wain and his cowriter Michael Showalter, two-thirds of legendary cult comedy troupe Stella (the third and most camera-friendly member, Michael Ian Black, gets a fitting on-screen role). Wain and Showalter have long been making divisive comedy for a very niche audience, but for those who can stomach their style, it’s a refreshingly gonzo treat.
While Wain has directed mainstream comedies like Role Models, They Came Together is far more in line with he and Showalter’s most well-known movie, 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer. Anyone who’s seen it knows that movie is also absolutely insane, and was written off by critics only to grow into a cult phenomenon over the years. (for a better illustration, check out the different between the critic and audience reception).
The best thing about Wain and Showalter’s work is that they seem to almost purposefully refuse to mature their sense of humor. It’s like they want to retain that feeling of having to make a video for a science project in middle school and goofing around with friends thinking up the most ridiculous things to say and do.
And they succeed at that. It’s basically a feature-length rough around the edges YouTube video that just happened to be given a real budget. Sure, it has Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler, It’s in HD and looks like any other movie would. But at it’s heart, you can still very much tell that it was made by these guys. On another note, your reaction to that link should tell you everything you need to know about whether or not you’d enjoy this movie.
Above all, what you get from watching They Came Together is the chance to witness big stars being super weird, but it’s always clear that they’re having a blast doing it. Luckily, the fun it must have been making the movie is infectious and I felt like I was being let in on a super-bizarre inside joke.
Should I talk about the movie itself? Eh, the concept is simply to skewer the cliched romantic comedy genre. The film doesn’t really have anything new to say within its parody, usually opting for the easiest shots possible. The title is probably the cleverest joke in the film.
I’ve already said that the jokes are extremely stupid, and I’m fine with that, but that didn’t have to mean it had to lack any insight whatsoever. Some people will care even less than I do about this, but as a person used to movies actually saying something, it can be off-putting just how aggressively pointless and insubstantial it all feels in the end. Luckily, Rudd and Poehler are two immensely charismatic leads and while nothing in this movie is meant to be ‘believable’, they at least make sure you’re glued to their faces.
If you’re having a bad day, They Came Together could either do just the trick or make everything worse. If I were to read a review of this movie that gave it a 1 out of 5, I’d have to say “I can’t argue with that.” But if I read a review that gave it a 5 out of 5, I’d also say, “I can’t argue with that.” It’s about as polarizing as comedy can be this side of Tim and Eric.
But in my opinion, the movie is something of an achievement. It’s an example of talented comedians getting away with making movies that refuse to follow Hollywood conventions. It’s like a bunch of goofballs with no style, little money, and awkward demeanors crashing a fancy, suit-and-tie dinner party and somehow being the most interesting, entertaining ones there.
Score: 3.5 out of 5