When Joel and Molly meet, it's hate at first sight: his big Corporate Candy Company threatens to shut down her quirky indie shop. Plus, Joel is hung up on his sexy ex. But amazingly, they fall in love, until they break up about two thirds of the way through.
'They Came Together' is all about skewering the romantic comedy status quo. Sometimes it perfectly encapsulates the unbelievable romantic mush so many rom-coms wade through, and other times it loses itself in its parody-like behavior. At times, the desire to point out the world of rom-com flaws comes dangerously close to a movie that would be better titled 'Not Another Rom-Com Movie.' Writers Michael Showalter and David Wain throw out a barrage of spoof jokes. Some of them hit, others miss, and at times the movie wades back into the very clichés it's spending so much time pointing at and laughing.
Whenever 'They Came Together' fails to achieve its goal of pointing out the joke of rom-coms, which are already a joke in and of themselves, it falls back on the shoulders of an infinitely likable duo of Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler. They're the constant in an otherwise turbulent movie. They're just so darned amiable that it's hard not to just sit there and smile. It's hard to keep the spoofing fresh, but it isn't hard for Rudd and Poehler to carry the dull parts.
Of course we open on Joel (Rudd) and Molly (Poehler) recounting their love story to a couple of friends, over dinner. It's a hilarious way to start out the movie. We see the two of them, so in love. Their story must be a happy one, right? Well, as the story starts and we hear about their meet-cute (one of the best jokes in the whole movie), their dating, how they fell for each other, etc. Yes, there must be a few fights along the way. Joel works for a large candy conglomerate, Molly owns a small independent candy store. Whoa boy, this isn't going to go well, right?
All the beats from notable rom-coms are there, it's how the movie deals with them that's funny. Instead of acting like these are completely normal everyday happenstances, 'They Came Together' painstakingly points out how ridiculous some of these situations are. Joel's friends, played by Ken Marino and Kenan Thompson offer the exact advice you think those characters would offer in that situation ("I'm married, and that's the point of view I represent"), only it's turned up a few notches to call attention to how prevalent these types of characters are in these movies.
Where the spoofing goes too far is when the movie tries too hard to through in 'Airplane'-like sight gags. You're getting all the satirical stuff right. You're spearing the rom-com industry with some witty observations, and a clever reconstruction of standard formulas. Yet, you're going to take time to throw in a sight gag where someone mentions that the waiter is acting like he has a "pole up his ass," and the waiter turns, knocking over glassware, because he does indeed have a real pole up his ass. There's a fine line. It's a jarring turn of events, because while there are some weird unexplained sight gags throughout the movie, the pole joke takes you right out of it. The movie never set itself up as an 'Airplane'-esque spoof so when it tries out a few outlandish sight gags, they fall flat, feel weird, and throw off the mojo of the well-written script.
The end product is mostly funny though. It's a clever look at how absurd rom-coms are and how we generally give them a pass anyway. Rudd and Poehler are instantly charming whether they're on the screen together or taking up their own space. They carry the movie through its rough patches and end up leading it to a satisfying ending.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a barebones release. One 50GB Blu-ray, and an UltraViolet Digital Copy download. Standard keepcase and slipcover, and that's it.
The 1080p presentation of 'They Came Together' is bright, colorful, and everything you'd expect from a recently filmed rom-com, but not in an ironic way. As with many rom-coms on Blu-ray the contrast is bright, colors are intense, and detail is lifelike.
Molly's candy shop is full of all sorts of color. The blue patterned wallpaper, the assorted colorful candies, and the white display cases are all presented flawlessly. Facial detail is clear and resolute the closer the camera gets. The movie has a decidedly high-def TV look, not much "cinematic"-ness to it. However, what's there is solid. Dark areas aren't imposing. Visual miscues are non-existent. Aliasing, banding and the like are no-shows.
Because of its inherent nature there's nothing that's going to overly wow you about the presentation of 'They Came Together'. It simply renders lifelike visuals without any discernible problems.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is equally solid and unmemorable. That's the curse of being a rom-com really. There just isn't a whole lot of chances to show of an audio mix, because most of it is centered in the front channels where the majority of action takes place.
The most important aspect of a comedy, the dialogue, is presented cleanly without any interruption or distortion. The center channel holds most of the movie's spoken word, but there are times where directionality with the front speakers is used for off-screen voices.
Surround sound and LFE is mainly used to create a city-like atmosphere. Busy city streets, cars, people milling about. It's there, but it's faint. However, there's not much more you can ask from this mix. It's straightforward and does what it needs to do without messing up.
When 'They Came Together' is firing on all cylinders, it does so quite well, hitting all the easy targets that clichéd rom-coms produce. However, when it tries to venture into overt visual gag territory that's where the movie loses its momentum. Though, that said, 'They Came Together' is mostly clever, and frequently funny. With Rudd and Poehler at the helm, most of the movie is more than agreeable. With solid enough audio and video, 'They Came Together' is worth a look if you're into cleverly written spoofs.