When Wet Hot American Summer came out in 2001, it was released by USA Films – a company that eventually morphed into Focus Features, but at the time had no real footing theatrically. That may explain why the film was barely released, but eventually found a cult audience. Considering it was written by Michael Showalter and David Wain (the latter of whom directed the film), and featured many members of The State there was almost a guarantee it would be funny, but the fledging USA Films didn’t know how to sell it. Originally Showalter and Wain wanted to follow that film with They Came Together, which they were unable to make until recently, and it was also given a small theatrical release (but was also put on VOD). But now that it’s on home video, it seems likely it too will become a cult favorite. Starring Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Cobie Smulders, Chris Meloni and many familiar faces, it is equally hilarious, and my They Came Together Blu-ray review follows after the jump.
Told to their friends (played by Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper), Joel (Rudd) and Molly (Poehler) relate how they first met. At the time he was dating Tiffany (Smulders), but she was cheating on him with his smug coworker Trevor (Michael Ian Black), whereas she’s a klutzy lady running an independent candy shop that mostly gives their candy away to children. In these details the film most resembles You’ve Got Mail, but the film doesn’t spend too long borrowing from that movie. After Trevor finds out about Tiffany’s infidelity, he’s in a little funk so his best friend (and coworker) Bob (Jason Mantzoukas) sets him up at a Halloween party. And guess who with? The date goes terribly, but the two run into each other later and sparks fly. Will silly obstacles get in the way of their eventual pairing? Could Molly take the advances of accountant Egbert (Ed Helms) seriously? With a movie like this you’ll never know.
Since the release of Wet Hot American Summer, the spoof “_____ Movie” genre has been run into the ground with films that borrow sequences from hit movies and then add fart jokes or topical references. Though originally modeled on Airplane! and the other Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker movies, the genre eventually moved into lowest common denominator territory. Those films have aged horribly (who would ever want to re-watch Meet the Spartans?), because many of the films they referenced haven’t had a lasting pop culture impression. Our world has changed too much – few people remember much of what happened in Hancock or Wanted to know enough about it to get much out of jokes made at their expense.
Which is why what writer/director Wain and writer Showalter is so special. They understand that though some of the tropes can be traced to films like You’ve Got Mail or Along Came Polly, it’s important that the scenes work on their own. In an early sequence, Joel meets with four friends, one the guy who is just all about one night stands (Ken Marino), another who’s the more nerdy type and who quotes poetry (Jack McBrayer), there’s his good friend Bob who has a stable relationship, and Teddy (Kenan Thompson), who is completely happy in his married life. Having playing basketball as a place to discuss “man stuff” may have its roots in Along Came Polly (or a number of other films), but the film points out that these four friends are essentially there to present four different points of views that can reflect the nature of dating and relationships. They are clichés, self aware ones at that, but then also every time someone takes a shot, they completely miss while Marino shouts “swish!” The film deconstructs the tropes of the genre, down to the racially diverse mixture of friends that show what a swell guy the main character is, while also not forgetting to keep things silly and stupid. This sequence is a perfect example of this film at its best.
Running a lean 84 minutes, originally the film didn’t have the conversation with friends, which allows Wain to cut some of the narrative fat out of the film, so it feels like a greatest hits compilation of scenes from Rom-coms. That also means there’s at least one strong laugh every five minutes, and tons of silliness in between. It’s a keeper, and though home video has changed so drastically over the last ten years it’s hard to know if this can find a similar audience as such films as Office Space or Wet Hot, if any film can it’s They Came Together.
Lionsgate presents the film in widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. As the film essentially went straight to VOD, it’s likely that this transfer is the same one that was used for both that and the film’s limited theatrical release. The picture and sound quality is excellent, though it’s hard to suggest this would make a good demo disc. The film comes with a commentary by David Wain and Michael Showalter, who talk up their cast, the New York locations, and some of the cameos, and it’s a good track as they refrain from repeating too many of the anecdotes they shared repeatedly on their press tour. There are a ton of deleted scenes (34 min.), which help show what the movie might have been like without the wraparound segments, and a making of (22 min.) on how the film came together, and how quickly it was made. There’s also the table read from the San Francisco Sketch Fest (104 min.), which – lacking audio quality aside – was one of the reasons the film was made. It’s worth watching as there are variations in the material that fans will surely enjoy. The film’s theatrical trailer is also included.