Friday, June 26, 2015

They Came Together

(David Wain, US, 2014)

I've got a weakness for the high-jinks of Wain and Co., and here, they don't disappoint.  What's of interest in a film like this, besides the gloriously goofy gags - the genuinely strange quality that resides in the movie like a fugitive odor - is how difficult this kind of anarchic approach can be to sustain.  The idea of building a structure out of a string of gags - even very good gags - is one of those "great in theory, tough in practice" type of things.  The Stella gang always had a sense of this: their best work shines in the very short format of the great, essential Stella Shorts, which turn less-than-zero production value, punky irreverence, and brevity into sublime virtues.  The minute things get polished and practiced, it begins to feel forced.  Some of the anarchic joy drains out of the frame.  Which isn't to say that their higher-gloss efforts have been for naught; they did pull of some great zaniness on their short-lived Comedy Central show, Showalter's The Baxter has much to recommend it, and, of course, there is the immortal Wet Hot American Summer, which is, well, immortal.  But the raw, dildo-clutching heart of their work has always been too anarchic to fit comfortably into a three-act structure, even if the whole point is to poke fun at that very structure.  They Came Together might be the closest they have come to making it work on a (relatively) larger scale.  There are moments when you're not quite sure at which level the humor functions best on - is this gag a straight up parody of sappy romantic comedies, or a meta-gag about parodies, or a kind of goofy meta-joke about underlined comedic moments, or just absurdity for it's own sake? - and the dissonance this causes can distract from the enjoyment.  My take is that Wain and Showalter and all the rest of their merry band of goofballs are much more sincere than they have sometimes been taken for.  They are in it for the pure funny, and in this case, they are very funny indeed.

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