Yes, someone shares your disdain for rom com cliches
They Came Together has the intelligence if not the timing… or the tone… or the style. But that’s okay, as this assault on groan worthy romantic comedy cliches becomes fired up enough to spit out a number of chuckle worthy moments.
Borrowing from the David Zucker canon, They Came Together slices through the black soul of reprehensible romance cinema, setting up dialog exchanges and scenarios which are eerily direct replicas of source material.
Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler are the duo to pull this one out, creating a buffoonish reality of archetypes and then reveling in their idiocy. Love is the only dialog, whether in the midst of tragic financial news or during a pick-up game at the park. In that sense, it’s smart. Co-writers David Wain and Michael Showalter have clearly experienced their personal glut of Hollywood formalities and put their knowledge base to proper use in this semi-spoof.
“Semi” because They Came Together feels only partially committed. Sometimes a waiter will literally have a stick up his butt, and other times dialog sways between people speaking only in their personal cliches flowing into chatter which acknowledges the absurdity. The film spoof as an art form has undoubtedly collapsed because of how difficult they are to do. This movie shows why.
Still, there is plenty here to soak up comically. Seeing the often static, hard nosed Law & Order detective Christopher Meloni weasel out of shameful social awkwardness is hysterical. Wain and Showalter’s cozy framing device of a couple’s dinner is quirky enough to establish a presence for the flashback humor to follow.
Regardless of its errors – and there are many – They Came Together is still making an attack on a genre which has long written itself into parody. Maybe that’s why this feature doesn’t always work: the subtly either isn’t there or it’s playing too direct and engorging on previous mistakes. Rudd and Poehler prove their pairing works while the script work too often runs itself ragged. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]
Digital support from the Arri Alexa is frequently bothered by noise. Darker shots carry noticeable buzzing and hamper overall clarity. Blase cinematography is often indifferent, leaving shots soft on actual fidelity. Wrap-arounds to the couple’s dinner are purposefully fogged with blooming light sources to better set an artificial mood, while style in the midst of the story tends to wander for the purposes of satire.
At least there are vivid patches of color to take in. Splendid flesh tones and deep primaries surround much of They Came Together pleasantly, adding the air of fake perfection. Poehler’s character owns a hokey candy shop bursting with sugary hues. Even in the darkness of a seedy bar, the backdrop retains a rich redness to back a repetitive exchange.
Black levels and contrast are well rounded, trotted out into extremes as needed. Light sources are typically stout and when night falls, black levels pick up. Screen density is high and consistent between scenes. Nothing causes an impediment to fidelity, with close-ups strong enough to avoid technical problems – at least except for the noise. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]
Like most rom coms, there is limited need for audio design. Background music may rise in the surrounds and some fireworks are heard in the left rear during a New Years celebration, but that’s it. They Came Together finds no reason to utilize the stereos outside of hardly noticeable ambiance. Restaurant/cafe environments may carry a hint of energy before it slips away in the following scene.
DTS-HD or not, this track is almost a mute aside from dialog. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Audio]
Extras make up for any errors, beginning with director/co-writer David Wain and producer/co-writer Michael Showalter delivering a commentary. They All Came Together is typical behind-the-scenes fluff, tracking the genesis of the idea to the early 2000s and through to its completion.
True die-hards will love the table read, captured in 2012, which brings in everyone to act out the full script for a live audience. Given some of the fun had, it’s longer than the movie itself by 20 minutes. Deleted scenes follow and are extensive at 34-minutes, which are the bonus feature’s finale other than trailers. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Extras]
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.