Movie review: “They Came Together” a perfectly silly rom-com spoof

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From the June 26, 2014 edition

In 2001, David Wain directed “Wet Hot American Summer,” and if you don’t think it’s one of the best comedies of the past two decades, you can go fondle your sweaters.

I’ve been a fan of Wain since the MTV sketch show “The State,” but his post-“Wet Hot” movie slate — from the horribly uneven anthology “The Ten” to the couple’s comedy “Wanderlust” — hasn’t been nearly as funny.

Wain’s latest comedy “They Came Together” comes out of the gate a little flat, but once it finds rhythm in its absurdist humor, I found myself caught in bursts of sudden, snorting laughter. It’s a good thing I wasn’t drinking milk in the theater, because it would have exited via my nose.

“They Came Together” reunites Wain with two “Wet Hot” cast members who have basically become comedic superstars since then, as Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) tell another couple (Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper) the story of how they fell in love.

The whole thing is a continuous riff on ridiculously bad rom-com clichés. Molly owns a small business called Upper Sweet Side; Joel works for the uber-corporate Candy Systems & Research. Yet somehow these opposites find out they have things in common (“You like fiction books? I like fiction books!”).

The comedy is in the vein of “Airplane,” unabashedly silly and farcical, magnifying the awkwardness of the occasional misfire, but once it finds its groove, “They Came Together” is, indeed, Wain’s best movie since “Wet Hot.”

Rudd has done his share of actual rom-coms, so his delivery is pitch-perfect when he tells Molly’s mother, “But I’m in love with your daughter, Mrs. Whatever Molly’s Last Name Is.” Poehler hasn’t been so energetically silly on-screen in a while, and that’s a real treat. Oh, and there’s a parade of funny people throughout the cast.

Your enjoyment is highly dependent on whether you enjoy the brand of humor Wain and co-writer Michael Showalter (“Stella”) lay out here. (I don’t know why the line, “Why don’t you go take a jerk, hike?” made me laugh so hard, but it did.) Ride out the slow start, and you’ve got a winner.

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate