It isn't often that you get a parody movie that isn't part of the Scary Movie franchise. At long last, this has been remedied. The incongruousness of romantic comedies in general--especially of late--makes They Came Together one of those timely sort of movies that hits right for the jugular at a moment when the rom-com needs to be turned on its ear. Extrapolating every cliche from pretty much every classic Meg Ryan movie ever made, They Came Together opens with Molly (Amy Poehler) and Joel (Paul Rudd) at dinner with some friends (played by Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper) who ask how the two of them met, resulting in a parodic re-telling of the formulaic way in which "they came" into each other's lives.
Even the title of the film alone, directed by David Wain and co-written with Michael Showalter (the brilliant minds who brought you Wet Hot American Summer and Stella), is rife with the implications of its over the top comedic leanings. As it toes the line between being a believable rom-com and a completely absurdist work, They Came Together is at its best when it pushes the boundaries of campiness (e.g. when Molly takes Joel home to meet his parents and finds out they're white supremacists).
In keeping with the standard blueprints of the rom-com, Molly and Joel face the obstacle of Joel working for Candy Systems & Research (a deliberately and strangely generic corporate name), a candy empire that's about to put Molly's indie candy shop, Upper Sweet Side, out of business. It smacks of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail. And then there's the actual wielding of the line, "I'll have what she's having," to drive home the When Harry Met Sally angle.
Of course, regardless of all that's standing in their way, Molly and Joel end up falling in love and then having their romance marred by the return of Joel's ex-girlfriend, Tiffany (Cobie Smulders), who previously cheated on him with his co-worker, Trevor (Michael Ian Black--because where there's Wain and Showalter, there's Black). Their reunion features a preposterous sex scene reminiscent of another parody movie, Fatal Instinct.
All of the conventions of rom-com must be adhered to, however, ultimately leading to Molly and Joel's wedding in the third act. But it wouldn't be a parody movie without a humorous twist--and so, at the end, we learn that Molly and Joel are actually divorced as they tell this story. The lampoon is complete, presenting future romantic comedies with a challenge they might never have considered: be more original.