“As brilliant as Airplane and The Naked Gun.” – Firstshowing.net
That quote is on one of the poster for They Came Together. I don’t think its a joke, I think it is supposed to be serious.
The idea behind the Abrahams and Zucker brothers spoof movies of the eighties and early nineties was simply to throw in as many jokes as possible in the hope that most of them would land.
This proved to be a sound principle because Top Secret, the two Airplane films, the Naked Gun series and Hotshots! parts one and deux were all consistently funny. Not every gag worked but the vast majority did and just thinking of those comedies immediately raises a smile in most people as well as bringing forth a stream of quotes. In fact often you only need to give the feeder line and there’ll be someone else in the room who can respond with the follow up:
“This woman has to be taken to a hospital.
A hospital? What is it?
It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now.”
Thank you. I just had it stuffed.”
Unfortunately in the case of They Came Together, which riffs on rom coms, the vast majority of the gags don’t work. It isn’t close to being as brilliant as Airplane or The Naked Gun, in fact it doesn’t even deserve to be compared. It would be like debating if Sharknado is a worthy companion piece to Jaws. It just isn’t in the same league.
They Came Together isn’t offensively humourless like The Scary Movie series and the Not Another … Movie movies but it is pretty weak and it’s only really the likability of its cast that gets it through. I mean, on the one hand you have Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Cobie Smulders and Ed Helm but on the other hand you’ve got jokes about having sex with your own grandmother and grown men crapping in Lycra. You see the problem.
Even if the film were funnier, romantic comedies are just not as ripe for lampooning as disaster films and cop movies. I accept that some of the genre’s conventions are getting a little tired but it’s harder to have fun at the expense of something that is already having fun all by itself. (At least it’s not as bad as the aforementioned Scary Movie which thought it a great idea to try and parody an excellent postmodern parody.)
The main targets aren’t the weak movies either, they are shooting for the big ones like When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail. The whole thing is like watching somebody on Britain’s Got Talent trying to do old Robin Williams routines. Don’t go there, you’re just going to show up your own inadequacies.
The humour here is really broad and with most of the jokes feeling a little flat it needs a stronger story to hold it together. In trying to highlight the predictable nature of rom com plots, the plot is just predictable. It’s almost surprising how unsurprising it all is.
Other films like Friends with Benefits and have had a stab subverting romantic comedies before but have always been criticised for ultimately reinforcing the conventions they are trying to tear down. The thing is you can’t abandon the typical structure altogether else you end up with nothing to hang the laughs on. You still need to care about the central couple.
Another film that tried to play this game, I Give It a Year, felt like a series of sketches more than a coherent film and worse than that They Came Together feels more like one long skit stretched laboriously over an hour and twenty minutes. It just doesn’t work.
Is this one for the kids?
Clearly not, look at that title. A lot of the humour is pretty bawdy.
The Ripley Factor:
It’s barely worth commenting on the representations of gender in this film, the characters are too broadly drawn. It doesn’t gratuitously objectify women though which many films of its nature do, Airplane included. There are no bare breasts on show here which is something.
Mind you, if that news disappoints you then don’t worry, you’ll probably love this film.