You can tell while squirming through 83 minutes of director David Wain’s They Came Together that he and cowriter Michael Showalter were up for lampooning the tired clichés of contemporary romantic comedies on the brilliant level of other genre spoofs like Airplane, Naked Gun or Wain and Showalter’s own Wet Hot American Summer. This isn’t that. Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler play Joel and Molly, a couple on the verge of splitting up, even if, as they tell their dinner partners (Ellie Kemper and Bill Hader), the story of their relationship is “just like a romantic comedy.” And then we see that romantic comedy in a blur of sweeping aerial views of the city that doesn’t sleep, their “meet-cute” at a costume party and their conflicts as Poehler is about to lose her indie candy shop to a big monster conglomerate.
The supporting cast is ridiculously good—including Melanie Lynskey, Ed Helms, Cobie Smulders, Christopher Meloni, Jason Mantzoukas and Max Greenfield—but they’re wasted. Sure, there are laughs in it. Rudd and Poehler star in it, after all. But this is hit-and-miss, cut-and-run sketch comedy material, not feature material of the kind you might expect from the David Wain who gave us good stuff like Role Models. You keep hoping They Came Together will savage what’s become of a once-great movie genre of the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s that devolved into vehicles for Katherine Heigl and Kate Hudson. Instead, it makes the targets seem all too easy.