They Came Together (US - BD RA)
Jonathan watches another one of those corny romantic comedies.... ugh...
When Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) meet, it's hate at first sight: his big Corporate Candy Company threatens to shut down her quirky indie candy shop. Plus, Joel is hung up on his sexy ex (Cobie Smulders). But amazingly, they fall in love, until they break up about two thirds of the way through, and Molly starts dating her accountant (Ed Helms). But then right at the end... well, you'll just have to see. Hint: Joel makes a big speech and they get back together. (From the Lionsgate synopsis)
I should preface this review by pointing out that I really like David Wain's sense of humor. I headed into this ready to love it. I've enjoyed his previous movies and get a kick out of Children's Hospital on Adult Swim. I even praise Wanderlust which most people seem to not care for. There's just something about the freewheeling goofiness in his work that really charms and delights me. He isn't afraid to let his actors be silly and it results in some really great stuff (e.g. that mirror scene in Wanderlust). It's definitely not for everyone, but should you find yourself on Wain's frequency you might laugh yourself into tears like I did with They Came Together. This is Wain at his most odd, in a gear that should delight fans of Wet Hot American Summer.
What's refreshingly weird about They Came Together is its refusal to commit to one form of comedy. Sometimes it's a straight up mockery of rom-com staples. Then there's Zucker inspired slapstick, ridiculous tonal shifts, funny musical queues, and some parts where characters just say things in a silly way. Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler are the perfect leads for this mixture, both having worked in many different types of comedies. Aside from having the comedy chops to elevate the material, they are just a delight to see working together. The movie is constantly mocking sincerity and the generic qualities of romantic comedies, yet the two leads manage to have chemistry cause you can tell they just love working together. One of my favorite bits is a scene where they talk to each other in a cafe using overly saccharine, cutesy phrases. It's already funny, then the camera slowly shifts focus to a couple of patrons behind them looking at them like they are completely psychotic. Rudd and Poehler aren't alone. There's a swarm of Wain regulars and some new additions making appearances throughout. I especially loved seeing Christopher Meloni in comedy mode again. He gets an extensive poop joke that had me feeling like this movie was tailor made for me.
Wain is throwing so many different kinds of jokes at the wall that its no surprise some don't stick, but the sheer number and variety kept things exciting and made it easy to ignore less funny bits. The only ones that really bothered me were a framing device that grows stale and some of the meta touches where the characters brazenly point out their role in the story. What's meant as a funny wink sometimes became an annoying elbow jab. That is admittedly a difficult tightrope to walk. In a world where Facebook is considering a satire tag for articles from The Onion, it is sometimes important to demonstrate to viewers that they are witnessing a joke. My annoyance toward it could also be chalked up to the later seasons of Community I recently caught up on, which really wore out this kind of humor. Wain and company pull it off better than most though, and sometimes manage to make it just dumb enough that it comes around to being funny again. That takes skill. Or at least somebody like me who really likes laughing at dumb stuff.
If They Came Together looks cheap, that's because it is. I can't even find a Box Office Mojo page for it, but according to David Wain they were working with a "micro-budget". That doesn't stop Wain and cinematographer Tom Houghton from shooting the flick with the same conviction and scale of your average romantic comedy. In the extras they talk about how shooting in New York is good for a small budget cause all the sights and architecture are there for you and you just have to use them. Like most romantic comedies the image mostly has a warm and cozy look to it. There are some jokes embedded in the style of the movie. When Paul Rudd its ditched the image looks colder and more desolate. There's one scene where the movie just morphs into behind-the-scenes of a Norah Jones recording session, complete with the tacky camera work those videos always come with. The actual quality of the image leaves a little to be desired. The image has a noticeable amount of digital noise throughout, but detail remains strong. The transfer gets to show off some impressive bright colors with the interior of the candy shop. I can't imagine anybody complaining about the image here, given the aim of the movie.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track feels, like the video transfer, cheap at times. Most of the time its perfectly fine, but in some scenes the voices echo a bit and lack the quality you could expect from a bigger budget movie. It really didn't hurt the viewing experience at all for me, but if I have to write an audio section for a low budget comedy I might as well point it out. Wain uses music to humorous effect more than a few times, be it a corny acoustic guitar chiming in at just the right moment, or a scene where the movie shifts into a Norah Jones production video. None of the musical compositions are especially awesome to listen to on this sound mix, but they fit the rom-com parody aspect of the material flawlessly. You won't find much happening with the surround channels aside from some the score and some occasional minor background noise. But if you're watching They Came Together intensely for its technical merits there's probably something wrong with you.
Special features start off with an Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer David Wain and Producer/Co-Writer Michael Showalter. Wain and Showalter have the chemistry of old pals and make for that perfect combination of informative but humorous commentators. Usually a commentary track is too serious and boring or a bunch of comedy actors goofing around together off task. This is a good in between, but I still would've loved to hear from the cast on a commentary track as well. They All Came Together (HD, 23:59) is a nice little making of where Showalter and Wain talk about the origin of the idea, how it changed over time, and how it finally came into being after a well-received San Francisco Sketchfest live reading. There's lots of good interview footage with various cast members as well. I loved hearing Wain's explanation behind the "New York is another character in the movie" lines, which is apparently a huge pet peeve of his; one that he has been going out of his way to recite in promotional interviews for this movie. Some of the interviews even spiral into ridiculous improvising. It's a fun watch.
Next on the disc is the previously mentioned San Francisco Sketchfest Table Read (SD, 01:43:58) in its entirety. It is one of those things where you probably had to be there to enjoy it as much as the audience is, but it's a cool addition to the release nonetheless. Next up is a big batch of Deleted Scenes (HD, 34:23). This is no goldmine of extra material like the Wanderlust bizarro cut, but fans of the movie will find plenty of content here worth visiting. I got a few good chuckles out of it. Last of all is a Theatrical Trailer (HD 02:04).
They Came Together made me laugh so frequently that I began to question my sanity. What should be a joke that outstays its welcome fast is kept afloat by the dream team of Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler and an unpredictably weird sense of humor that could only come from David Wain. Fans of his previous work should dive right in, but I must stress that it is definitely not for everyone. Some will find it too dumb to bear. Chances are if you cracked up at the trailer you'll find enough to enjoy in the breezy 84 minute version.
I have to give Lionsgate credit for embracing the silliness in their promotional materials. The synopsis on the back of the box is a perfect fit, and there's a great little disclaimer tucked away in the small print. Due to the low budget of the production, the AV quality of the disc won't blow you away, but there are some quality extras here that fans will find worthwhile.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 2nd September 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Extras: Audio Commentary with Director/Co-writer David Wain and Producer/Co-writer Michael Showalter, "They All Came Together" Featurette, San Francisco Sketchfest Table Read, Theatrical Trailer, Deleted Scenes
Easter Egg: No
Director: David Wain
Cast: Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, New York
Length: 84 minutes
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