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Dir. David Wain, 2014
“R” for swears and the most purposely ridiculous sex scene since The Naked Gun.
Film parodies (or “spoofs”) are currently the worst of the worst that movies have to offer. No other suggenre of films has been as chronically inept, and spoofs/parodies (films that mock the conventions of a film or genre) deserve a special contempt because they manage to be consistently worse than the films they supposedly parody (the three “major” Twilight spoofs average a shockingly bad 2.7 on IMDB). The ubiquity of the genre in the 80’s and 90’s suggested that these films were easy (or could be lazily made), but the last decade-plus of futility has shown just how hard it is to pull off a decent movie spoof. While brilliant homages (films that lovingly reference or attempt to look/feel like other films; I think Edgar Wright’s films are also doing something more complicated than parody or homage) are still being made, it’s difficult to remember the last solid spoof; I’m not sure 2004’s Club Dread is purely parody, so maybe Scary Movie 3 (which is more not bad than good).
They Came Together ends up being notable because it’s actually a good, silly spoof more in the vein of some of the better 90’s entries than its contemporaries in the subgenre (even a second-tier 90s spoof like Jane Austen’s Mafia looks like a masterpiece compared to movies like Disaster Movie). It’s less interested in mimicking popular films (the “hey look, it’s that famous thing!” presentation is the inoperable tumor in the brain of today’s spoofs) than finding ways to make each scene as awkward and absurd as possible.
This also might be Wain and Showwalter’s most free-form funny film since Wet Hot American Summer. However, it’s a different shade of humor. I think I initially didn’t get WHAS because it was sold to me as parody, but it’s really not. It’s more homage-ish, a film interested in performing theme and variation of a familiar genre with increasingly oddball gags and absurd characters, and occasional satire, rather than subverting the genre itself. Unlike WHAS, TCT is a pure, Jim Abrahams-esque spoof, and easily the funniest spoof in over a decade.
Paul Rudd, who’s starred in his share of the kind of films this upends, basically plays the same character he always plays, but Amy Poehler was made for this kind of humor. She is able to show off her comedic ability far more here than in most of her other film roles, which have tended to reign in what has worked so well for her in sketch shows. The cast, like WHAS is tremendous, and Christopher Meloni is thankfully given another comedic role here (pulling off a scene that worked so well that Wain and Showalter would basically steal it for WHAS: FDOC).