Romantic comedies certainly offer fertile ground for satire, and David Wain--the man behind Wet Hot American Summer, Wanderlust and much of comedy troupes The State and Stella's best sketches along with co-writer Michael Showalter--would seem a natural for the job.
In They Came Together, Wain and Showalter give rom-coms the Airplane! treatment, packing virtually every second with visual gags and witty wordplay. And he has a cast of undeniably funny folks to deliver the jokes, led by Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd playing Molly and Joel, a star-crossed couple forced to navigate a series of outlandish obstacles to find true love.
Joining Poehler and Rudd are several other vets of Wet Hot American Summer, including Michael Ian Black and Chris Meloni, as well as a slew of comedy heavy hitters, including Ed Helms, Michaela Watkins, Jason Mantzoukas, Bill Hader, Ken Marino and Jack McBreyer. The array of parts large and small given to such talented folks help the film move along.
At its best, They Came Together has moments skewering rom-com cliches like the "meet-cute" and the idea of New York City amplifying the romance that hit their target. There are plenty of scenes along the way that work, and would make for great sketches, but as a whole, it doesn't really offer a satisfying narrative to hold on to as an audience.
There are too many jokes flying at all times to really care about Molly and Joel's relationship, and there's no escaping the sense that Poehler and Rudd are kind of wasting their time here--they've both been much funnier elsewhere. Rudd has been in so many of the romantic comedies that They Came Together is mocking that one would expect more nods to his own past work. And while it's great to see Poehler as a romantic lead in a movie, even a satire, it's too bad They Came Together doesn't make better use of her skills.
They Came Together will find an audience of State and Stella diehards, but there's not enough here to imagine it reaching the mainstream audience who actually goes to the cookie-cutter romantic comedies it's making fun of--and that's the audience who might enjoy its satire the most.