Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd have proven to be two of the most reliable performers in comedy. Through her TV work on "Saturday Night Live" and "Parks and Recreation," Poehler has consistently added depth and heart to well-written, funny characters. Through his numerous strong film performances, Rudd has shown to be adept at playing the lovable man-child. Fortunately, the romantic comedy spoof "They Came Together," starring Poehler and Rudd, makes the most of their comedic genius.
Poehler and Rudd were part of the ensemble cast of the 2001 cult favorite "Wet Hot American Summer" directed by David Wain. The same director and stars are back for "They Came Together" with many of their "Summer" cohorts in tow, including Ken Marino, Michael Ian Black and Christopher Meloni. They are joined by comic talents such as Ed Helms, Kenan Thompson, Bill Hader and Jack McBrayer to create another film that lovingly sends up a well-tread genre.
Like "Summer," "Together" is very much an acquired taste. Just as the former film referenced other films in the summer camp genre, the latter is best appreciated by those well-versed in romantic comedies. It is easy to spot the references to films such as "You've Got Mail" and "When Harry Met Sally" for viewers who are familiar with those films.
Whereas "Summer" is more snarky and sarcastic, "Together" piles on the jokes without being mean-spirited. It does express a certain frustration with films of the romantic comedy genre that tend to fall back on tired clichés. The good news is that "Together" never becomes a cliché itself. It keeps the viewer surprised the whole way, right up to a finale that features a surprise cameo and tongue-in-cheek resolution.
For Wain to pull off his film successfully, he needs the talents of Poehler and Rudd in the lead roles. Poehler plays Molly, a candy store owner who had almost given up on love until she meets Corporate Candy Company executive Joel, played by Rudd. Even though Joel's company is trying to put Molly's store out of business, Molly simply can't resist Joel's relentless charm. This points directly to Rudd's talent as a performer.
No matter the role, Rudd understands that charm beats snark any day. Rudd's comic timing is impeccable as he knows how to stare lovingly into a co-star's eyes while delivering some of the most ridiculously hokey lines imaginable. Rudd has a confidence in movies like "Together" that allows him to handle virtually any type of scene, including a particularly bizarre bar scene that revolves around the line "You can say that again." It is this type of scene that spotlights Rudd's genius. Whereas many actors show hesitation in repeatedly feeding the punchline, Rudd absolutely goes for it, making sure to mine every bit of comic gold.
The same holds true for Poehler, who has smartly resisted the tag "funny for a girl." Poehler is funny, period. This goes back to her days on the landmark sketch comedy show "Upright Citizens Brigade." In a comedy world dominated by men, Poehler understands that being in control of a scene means being able to match any comedic performer note for note. She honed her talents on "SNL" and perfected them as Leslie Knope on "Parks and Recreation." Poehler understands that every good comedic performance requires a sense of desperation.
In "Together," Molly is trying to raise a son and run a business against all odds. While she initially resists Joel, she is intrigued by him. That level of intrigue is heightened with a wink by Poehler. She knows that it is ridiculous for Molly to love Joel, but the convention of the romantic comedy genre demands it, so she complies – but that doesn't stop her from having some fun along the way.
In addition to being comfortable with witty dialogue, Rudd and Poehler are gifted physical comedic performers. They utilize an economy of motion, responding appropriately to the situation instead of employing grand, over-the-top physical gestures. This helps ground a scene closer to reality while still playing it to comedic effect.
"They Came Together" is largely successful thanks to the talents of a cast led by Poehler and Rudd. Their fresh take on tired material keeps the film from falling completely apart. There are small surprises in every scene that make it the perfect showcase for comedy stars that know how to roll with whatever comes at them to make the best – and funniest – story possible.