“They Came Together” Casting Review

**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

They Came Together is a hilarious, self-aware film that is able to succeed with its absurdity due to the comedic powerhouses that make up its cast. Even after watching the film’s trailer, I honestly could not tell what exactly this movie was about and thought it was some sort of April Fool’s Day trailer prank. I would have readily believed this was all a joke given the fact that the film’s leads are none other than Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd. Poehler specifically is the type of actress who seems like she is the same exact person on and off screen so I can never tell when she’s playing a character or just being herself. Thankfully, the film is very much real and the world is a better place for it.

The film itself is structured like your prototypical romantic comedy–Poehler plays a ditzy candy shop owner named “Molly” while Rudd plays “Joel”, a naïve but loveable goofball who also happens to be an exec at a big candy conglomerate. The two start off hating each other, but in true rom-com fashion, eventually fall head over heels for each other. Where the film truly shines though is the fact that it is essentially a parody of the romantic comedy genre–to a ridiculous degree. These types of parody comedies are always tricky, since they are at their best when they create a funny and poignant commentary on the genre they’re portraying, and at their worst when they revert to nonsensical gimmicks and humor in attempts to get a quick laugh. Wet Hot American Summer’s director David Wain directs and co-writes this film, so be assured that this movie hits all the right comedic notes. In fact, Wain is probably to credit for bringing They Came Together’s all-star cast together, and readily reunites actors from his previous work.

Getting back to the story: the film makes everyone aware of its self-awareness from the very beginning by opening on Rudd and Poehler’s characters having dinner with their friends “Karen” and “Kyle”, played by Ellie Kemper and Bill Hader, respectively. As the couples converse, Molly and Joel begin recounting how they got together and explicitly state that their story is very much like a movie (they literally reference this similarity). From there, the film flashes back to the couple’s sidesplitting romance, while Kemper and Hader are able to add their own brand of humor into the mix. Kemper and Hader are part of the steadily growing generation of comedic actors that have been able to seamlessly jump between television and film, and it’s difficult to watch any kind of comedy and not expect one of their faces to appear.

Beyond Kemper and Hader, the film is peppered with even more comedic faces and performances. Cobie Smulders takes a great turn as Joel’s ex-girlfriend “Tiffany”, and continues to show her versatility as an actress–she’s an alum of the mega hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother, and has been jumping back and forth from the big and little screen as “Special Agent Maria Hill”  in Marvel Studio’s various film and TV franchise (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, etc). Similar to Smulders, Wet Hot American Summer alum Christopher Meloni plays Joel’s boss, and his straight man style of humor is always appreciated–the scene with his Halloween costume is easily one of the film’s funniest moments. Although Meloni is constantly working as an actor, he seems to especially be on a hot streak–he was the lead of his own sitcom Surviving Jack this past TV season, had a scene stealing role in HBO’s hit Veep, and is coming out in the indie film White Bird in a Blizzard opposite Shailene Woodley.

Ed Helms, Max Greenfield, Jason Mantzoukas, and Melanie Lynskey also turn in great supporting performances here.  Helms plays the dorky love interest rival to Molly, while Greenfield plays Joel’s younger brother “Jake”. Greenfield has been readily ascending the comedic ranks (thanks in no small part to his breakout role in Fox’s New Girl) and is a fantastic choice as Paul Rudd’s younger brother–both in looks and sensibility. Mantzoukas and Lynskey play another couple that are mutual friends to Molly and Joel. Mantzoukas was in the recent summer comedy hit Neighbors, and is also known for his role in FX’s critically acclaimed series The League. He also had a recurring role on the series Parks & Recreation, Amy Poehler’s show. Lynskey will appear in the indie Happy Christmas where she plays Anna Kendrick’s older sister, who she also worked with on the film Up in the Air. Lynskey also has a big sitcom background and hails from CBS’s Two and a Half Men, and is also coming out in HBO’s new comedy Togetherness.

Even though the film’s leads and supporting players are all comedic pros, the movie continues to swell its ranks with familiar faces and cameos. Ken Marino, Jack McBrayer, and Kenan Thompson play Rudd’s group of basketball friends and, as clearly pointed out by their characters, each representing a different viewpoint when it comes to dating and relationships. Randall Park, Noureen DeWulf, and Michael Ian Black also have their fair share of scene-stealing moments–particularly DeWulf, who plays Rudd’s overtly sexual secretary. Park also deserves a huge shout out here–not only is he a fast rising comedic actor, but he happens to be Asian-American, which is quite a rarity in this realm of Hollywood, and sorely needed. In fact, Park is coming out in ABC’s new comedy series Fresh Off the Boat, which also happens to be the first Asian American-focused sitcom to hit primetime television in 20 years!

Finally, a comedy of They Came Together’s caliber wouldn’t be complete without a bevvy of extra special cameo appearances. Without giving away their particular involvement in the story– expect to see folks like John Stamos, Adam Scott, Nora Jones, Michael Shannon, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan to name a few. Even director David Wain himself makes an appearance.

One of comedy’s biggest strengths is the relative ease to attract a large powerhouse cast–a feat that tends to be more logistically complicated in other film genres. This is especially the case when talent like Rudd and Poehler are attached to a project since they can easily ask their multitude of actor friends (many of whom specialize in comedy) to participate in some shape and form. Since comedy doesn’t have as many conventional limitations as other genres, it’s also easier for cameo talent to make quick and brief appearances with little worry or concern if their involvement makes any kind of narrative sense. Thankfully, We Came Together doesn’t have to rely too much on outrageous gags or illogical comedic elements since the entire film is hilariously self-aware of itself and the genre that it’s poking fun at. This film may not have been on your radar this summer, eclipsed by the likes of Neighbors and 22 Jump Street, but this movie is probably the most unique comedies to hit the big screen this season. Even though the summer season is all about big blockbuster franchises, there are always indie film gems that are worth your time and attention–They Came Together being one of them.

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Kyle