“They Came Together,” a new satire starring Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler, is the last romantic comedy you’ll ever need to see. A pastiche of every rom com cliché, it’s a movie about sex and the city. Or maybe about what women want. Or perhaps it’s about friends with benefits. Actually, it’s about love, actually. Imagine one part “Airplane” and one part of every Kate Hudson romance and you get the idea.
Heading up a who’s who of a comedy cast, Rudd and Poehler play Joel and Molly, an unlikely couple who fall in love at first sight. He’s an executive at a candy company, she runs an independent confectionary shop called the Upper Sweet Side.
His company is trying to drive her store out of business so they can control NYC’s candy lucrative market, but despite their differences they find some common ground. “You like fiction books, too? No way!”
They also do all the things that people in rom coms do, but with a twist. In the standard “What am I going to wear montage” Molly ends up trying on a dozen outfits before deciding on a suit of armor. Joel sprints to declare his love for Molly only to wind up in a sword fight with her jealous ex-husband (an unexpected, but hilarious Michael Shannon). Meeting her parents takes a turn when they are revealed to be white supremacists there’s even the mandatory Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s montage. The only thing missing is Julia Roberts’s trademark guffaw.
Bookending the whole thing is a dinner conversation where Joel and Molly describe how they met to friends Karen (Ellie Kemper) and Kyle (Bill Hader).
Poking fun at romantic comedies is easy but for the most part “They Came Together” does it well. It hits a bull’s eye time after time with the tropes plucked from rom coms but presented with a spin. For instance, Joel plays basketball with his pals, each of whom gives him romantic advice, but none have names, they are simply introduced by the rom com trope they represent.
When “They Came Together” riffs on the absurdities of the genre it works, but too often it winks at the camera and becomes a little too self aware. With their looks and chemistry, Rudd and Poehler are rom com ready, but occasionally their eagerness to sell the joke gets in the way of letting the laughs and the parody happen naturally.
Ultimately, for all its insight and style—pitch perfect rom com soft lighting and pop soundtrack—“They Came Together” is stretched a little thin at feature length. As a skit or a short film it might have been a cutting parody of an over-worked genre. At eighty-three minutes it is harder to love.