Something about director David Wain’s new comedy They Came Together (2014) doesn’t feel quite right. Starring Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler and Bill Hader, this film has all the ingredients required of a zesty modern rom-com. Unfortunately though, the mix produces a disappointingly flat result. Whilst having dinner with some friends, New York couple Joel (Rudd) and Molly (Poehler) recount how they met and, against the odds, fell for one another. The course of true love never runs smooth however, least of all for two people as polar opposite as Joel and Molly. With its goofy characters and an innocuous storyline, this should, on the face of it, be good fun.
This could perhaps be where the very problem lies. Many modern comedies attempt to overcome a lack of sophistication and the need to inject any degree of thought into their script, with crass toilet humour – often resulting in an embarrassing and lacklustre viewing experience. Hollywood’s ‘golden age’ produced classic comedies like Bringing Up Baby (1938) and Some Like it Hot (1959) which worked – and still do to this day – because, they retained an ‘innocence’ which gave them universal appeal. Fast forward to the current day and contemporary cinema is saturated with endless streams of innuendo ridden films: their laddish humour is generally as likely to illicit laughs through cringe-inducing embarrassment as by anything genuinely funny.
The creators of recent films – like those from the Hangover franchise, such subtly named delights as A Good Old Fashioned Orgy (2011), or now They Came Together (of which the title’s double- meanings are, one senses, not unintentional) – appear to be trying too hard to achieve the same ends as their illustrious forbearers, but fail by using schoolboy coarseness instead of grownup wit. It’s a shame because Wain’s latest isn’t without its charm, mainly in the form of leading man Paul Rudd. Though other cast members – including the cooky Poehler who makes a loveable, if ditsy, foil – provide solid support, this really is Rudd’s vehicle. The New Jersey born actor has made a reasonably successful career from appearing in this kind of fodder, though this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s right for him. Best known as Mike – Phoebe’s long-suffering husband in the smash hit television series Friends – seeing Rudd indulge in bouts of naked sex whilst brightening the screen with strings of expletive ridden dialogue, tarnishes the wholesome image which, justifiably or otherwise, the public will always have of him. It’s not that there is anything fundamentally wrong with They Came Together. It’s simply that, having seen it to the end, one can’t help feeling Rudd and his fellow cast members are worthy of a whole lot more.