David Wain and Michael Showalter, two of the funniest men on the planet and longtime collaborators, have put together a great goof on romantic comedies with They Came Together, the perfect vehicle for Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler.
Wain directs from a script co-written with Showalter, and it turns out to be a nice companion piece to their brilliant summer camp parody Wet Hot American Summer, a film I will confidently call one of the 10 funniest movies ever made. Wet Hot also starred Rudd and Poehler, performers who are right at home with the Wain-Showalter brand of bizarre, random, rapid-fire humor.
The film takes pokes at drippy rom-coms, most notably the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan barfer You've Got Mail, while also being a legitimate, authentic romantic comedy.
Wain and Showalter use the age-old romantic comedy framing device of two couples talking and reminiscing about relationships over dinner and wine. Joel (Rudd) and Molly (Poehler) reveal that their meeting was a "corny romantic comedy kind of story" and, indeed, it is.
Joel and Molly are two recently dumped individuals living in Manhattan and toiling away on opposite sides of the candy trade spectrum. Molly owns a little candy shop called Upper Sweet Side. Joel works for an evil corporate candy company opening across the street, a faceless corporation determined to put Molly out of business.
They meet for the first time at a costume party, both of them dressed as Benjamin Franklin, both of them not really interested in meeting anybody. While Joel is a corporate drone, he longs to start a little coffee shop called Cup of Joel (Get it?). Molly just wants to give all of her candy money away to charity.
Things begin badly for them, but start picking up when they have a meet-cute at a bookstore and discover they both like fiction books, of all things. They will go through all of the standard new couple falling in love against all odds scenarios, with Joel being the handsome but not so much that he's threatening prototype, and Molly the fussy, somewhat clumsy, random-moment breakfast cereal consuming kind of girl.
The almighty Michael Ian Black (the third member of the legendary Stella troupe with Wain and Showalter) scores laughs as Trevor, Joel's competitive coworker who is trying to steal his promotion and Joel's girlfriend, Tiffani Amber Thigpen (a Saved By the Bell joke!). We know he's trying to steal Joel's girlfriend because he takes a rubber out of the rubber bowl (a hard candy dish full of loose rubbers) right after mentioning her.
There's also Christopher Meloni as Joel's boss, who has a superhero costume mishap that has nothing to do with romantic comedies and everything to do with being one of the year's funniest scenes. Ed Helms is on hand as the well meaning but slightly loser guy who tries to move in on Molly when she and Joel get into trouble.
The movie goes through many of the rom-com standard moments, including dinner at Molly's frighteningly odd parents' house, musical montages where Molly tries on outfits for Joel (she settles on a knight's suit of armor), and romping in a pile of leaves at the park, with the pile of leaves, of course, containing a dead body they fail to notice. The film hits its comedic apex during a dinner date featuring a waiter with a pole up his ass.
In a perfect world, Wain and Showalter would make a movie like They Came Together every three or four days, but I guess we have to settle for once a decade. Or maybe not, because Wain spoke of a potential Wet Hot American Summer prequel while promoting this film on the talk shows circuit. The project has even been proposed as a mini-series for Netflix.
They Came Together will be showing locally starting this week at The Loft Cinema in conjunction with an On Demand home video option. See it at the theater and then watch it again at home. Do it twice, not only because it will make you laugh a lot but because its success could mean somebody will bankroll the Wet Hot prequel. I want that Wet Hot prequel!