They Came Together is an unusually difficult movie to critique because ultimately, the entire film comes down to a matter of taste. You may not like it, but you can’t call it a bad movie, because whatever issues you may have, they were almost certainly deliberate. This movie sets a gimmick, commits to it, and plays the crap out of it. You’ve got to hand it to They Came Together — it’s got spunk. But as it turns out, I guess I hate spunk.
The movie is a cut and dry parody of the romantic comedy genre. It takes place in that magical rom com world where everyone is beautiful and quirky and has an IQ about half that of the average person. Joel and Molly (Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler) are on a double date with their unhappily married friends (Ellie Kemper and Bill Hader), telling the story of how they met. Cause, see, it was such a cute (but really long) story, like something out of a movie. Except “It’s not a movie. It’s our real life.” Get it?
From there, the movie is a rom com MadLibs session, plugging in every cliché, trope, and reference you can think of. “Every cliché?” you ask skeptically. Yes, really. Every one. Go ahead, name a rom com trope. Did you guess:
- Her klutziness
- Her black best friend
- His circle of friends representing different male archetypes, “telling it like it is”
- High maintenance food ordering
- A harsh initial misunderstanding
- Bonding in a bookstore
- Fundamental differences combined with a slight misunderstanding
- The holiday season downward spiral into loneliness
- Business names that are also PUNS!
- SPLIT-SCREEN MONTAGES
Ultimately, though, it’s just an extended SNL sketch. You’re not going to care about the characters because you’re not meant to. You’re not going to care about the story because you know what’s going to happen. It’s just the joke. The one joke. This is a movie that you can watch a scene from on YouTube, or while flipping channels (people still do that, right?), and it’s hilarious. But if you’re the kind of person that can watch an hour and a half of loosely linked YouTube videos and not find that tedious… well, friend, this may just be your Citizen Kane.
They Came Together is playing in select theaters and on demand.
Vivian Kane also saw Snowpiercer this weekend and wasn’t crazy about it. So, you know, take her opinion with a bucket of salt.