It screens on Monday as a BAMcinemaFest Spotlight and saw its premiere at Sundance, which is when Variety‘s Scott Foundas wrote: “Those merry pranksters David Wain and Michael Showalter aim to do for the factory-made Hollywood romantic comedy what their Wet Hot American Summer did for the summer-camp movie in They Came Together, a lively comic jamboree that’s sometimes smarter than it is funny and hits about as often as it misses, but is, on balance, a good deal of fun. Led by game, frisky performances from Amy Poehler and regular Wain alter ego Paul Rudd, alongside many other Wet Hot alumni, this spirited exercise in genre implosion doesn’t come anywhere near the inspired heights of that film or Wain and Rudd’s terrific Role Models (2008), but should pacify fans still pining for that long-promised Wet Hot sequel.”
“Molly (Amy Poehler) is a lovable klutz who owns a small candy shop in New York,” writes James Rocchi at the Playlist. “Joel (Paul Rudd) is a good, non-threateningly handsome man who happens to work for the candy mega-corporation that’s about to knock Molly’s tiny shop out of business. Any similarities to You’ve Got Mail—or When Harry Met Sally, or Jerry Maguire, or Along Came Polly or any one of a host of grindingly generic modern rom-coms—are purely intentional, with a script that combines broad, ludicrous potshots with precise, devastating sniper-fire.” They Came Together “straddles the line between homage and satire superbly; demolition only requires a hammer, after all, while deconstruction requires knowledge and care.”
“As the main couple insist repeatedly in the story-within-a-story frame, their tale (like a movie, only it’s real!) just so happens to have a third main character: New York City itself.” Benjamin Mercer in the L: “This world manages to feel both unhinged and totally flat—characters are assigned jobs and apartments, but all the details, from the foreground behavior to the background decor, seem off…. [S]upporting players (Christopher Meloni, Ed Helms, and Cobie Smulders, among others) generally do a good job at patrolling this space between loopy and homogenous, but nothing distracts much from the splendor of Rudd’s performance—playing it straight, he scans as oblivious to the idiocy of his surroundings rather than a willing participant in it.”
At Film.com, William Goss notes that “the too-bright lighting scheme perfectly suited to the average studio product also has the unfortunate effect of making the film look more like a drawn-out Funny or Die trailer than any of Wain’s previous films had.”
“The screenplay blazes through expected plot points at such a pace… that viewers might expect the movie to have wrapped up by the 45-minute mark,” writes John DeFore in the Hollywood Reporter. “It’s a little hard to explain how it continues to 83 minutes, frankly…. (Tadalafil) The problem isn’t just the winking tone. In fact, one of the funniest moments early on has Poehler quickly glancing at the camera to make sure we’re in on the joke. It’s that winking and straightforward genre rehash, with dialogue baldly stating what each scene is supposed to add to the plot, is practically all the film offers.”
Update, 6/23: At Slant, Jesse Cataldo writes that “by picking targets that are simultaneously ripe for ribbing and completely insignificant as objects of derision, [Wain and Showalter] reveal the schematic nature of both digestible cinematic confections and the satiric responses that feed on them, the mechanical system that breeds both digestible storylines and the comedic backlash that invariably arrives to tear them apart, clearing the ground for new clichés to be formed. A film like They Came Together may be aligned with the latter camp, more interested in mockery than creation, but its strange, sincere method of tearing down these clichés still feels singular, making an odd masquerade from the husk of another desiccated genre.”
Updates, 6/26: “Wain is a great gag man but an indifferent storyteller,” writes Time Out New York‘s Keith Uhlich. Here, “everyone involved seems above the rom-com conventions they’re satirizing, so anxious to get to each punch line that they let the connective tissue languish. You howl often but quickly forget why.”
For Slate‘s Dana Stevens, “this rough-edged parody feels both distinctive and handmade, and for those reasons alone it’s a hard movie to hate, even when it temporarily loses its comic footing.”
“They Came Together is one joke repeated until you’re broken down by the giggles,” writes Amy Nicholson in the Voice. “It shouldn’t work as well as it does, and wouldn’t if it weren’t perfectly cast with America’s Comedy Sweethearts.”
Morgan Wilcock for Film Comment: “It’s a light-hearted film that is smarter than it seems—or as Wain once said, ‘a deliberately terrible romantic comedy.’”
“Ultimately,” writes Genevieve Koski for the Dissolve, “the rom-com may have been too easy a target for Wain and Showalter; They Came Together’s premise provides so many easy avenues toward a laugh, there’s little need to break a sweat being audacious or subversive; why explore comedic detours when you can drive straight down the middle?”
The AV Club‘s A.A. Dowd: “In some respects, it might be too faithful to the genre it savages; as in many real rom-coms, the energy flags during the plot’s backstretch, and audiences may share the drifting interest of Kyle (Bill Hader) and Karen (Ellie Kemper), who come to regret ever asking Joel and Molly to chronicle their meet-cute.”
But for Flavorwire‘s Jason Bailey, it’s “as funny a film as I’ve seen in a good, long while.”
Lily Rothman talks with Wain for Time.
Updates, 6/28: Wain “has opted to deliver a series of hit-and-miss sketch-comedy bits rather than a fully realized movie that might have gutted contemporary rom-com clichés rather than just weakly aping them,” writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times.
And for Christy Lemire at RogerEbert.com, “simply recreating what we know to be hackneyed and safe doesn’t suddenly make it hilarious and surprising. There has to be a spin to it; there has to be some innovation.”
And Elvis Mitchell talks with Wain (29’05”).