The curtains pull back and swing jazz rolls over the opening credits: white serif font on black background. Enter two couples sat chatting in a plush New York restaurant. A scene in which they discuss the relative merits of the broadsheet newspapers gives way to sweeping aerial shots of the Manhattan skyline. We might have been in a Woody Allen film; but with David Wain – America’s most inveterately insincere filmmaker – at the helm, this can only be a parody of a Woody Allen film. Back at the restaurant, one couple (Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd) begin to recount the history of their relationship to the other couple. Cue an 80-minute-long send-up of rom-com clichés, followed by the end credits.
The film’s strongest suit is Rudd (a Wain regular) and Poehler as the unlikely lovebirds. Rudd has fun lampooning the blandly charismatic guy-next-door character he’s played so many times, while Poehler revives her loveable ditz from Parks and Recreation. They run through all the banalities of the genre – the car-crash first encounter, the abortive first kiss, the passionate first shag – with impeccable comic nous, and play the darker moments with a nice absurdist touch (as in the scene where her parents turn out to be white supremacists).
The problem with They Came Together is that it plays out like a very long sketch. At feature length, parody should do more than just poke fun – only if it develops a compelling narrative of its own will it make a lasting impression. But here, Wain and co-writer Michael Showalter start firmly in micky-taking gear then lose the gearshift. The constant self-referential asides are distracting, and some of the jokes – especially the action movie skits – don’t fit the broader remit of a rom-com satire. They may have, but ultimately this film never quite comes together.