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Sundance 2014: Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler give rom coms an 'Airplane!' twist in 'They Came Together'

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If Airplane! and You’ve Got Mail went on a blind date, got liquored up, and had a baby…that baby would look like David Wain’s rom-com spoof They Came Together. Making its world premiere on Friday night at Sundance and adding some star power to the tail end of the festival, the silly send-up of formulaic Meg Ryan-Tom Hanks meet-cute movies and their ilk reunites the gang from Wet Hot American Summer – with some new faces sprinkled in.

Wain’s Wet Hot American Summer had its debut at Sundance 13 years ago. And it’s good to see that Wain hasn’t grown up much since then. They Came Together feels like a movie made by a guy who still thinks like a 13 year old and that rapid-fire Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker sight gags and “Don’t call me Shirley”-style puns are the height of comedy gold. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that some of his old pals have become really famous since his cult summer-camp flick came out in 2001.

The film kicks off in typical genre style with Paul Rudd’s Joel and Amy Poehler’s Molly on a double date with Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper, recounting how they met. Rudd explains how if it were a corny movie he’d be the not overtly Jewish, handsome leading man. Molly adds that she’d be the adorable klutz leading woman. From there, it’s an 82-minute rat-a-tat riff-fest on every cliche you’ve ever seen Nora Ephron and company commit to celluloid.

Molly owns a small-business candy shop with a quirky, punny name (Upper Sweet Side); Joel works for a ruthless candy conglomerate that wants to put her out of business. Molly’s a single mom; Joel’s just been jilted by his icy girlfriend. But when they meet, it’s love-hate at first sight. How could it not be? They’re both dressed like Benjamin Franklin for a Halloween party…and they both like “fiction books”!

Some of Wain and cowriter Michael Showalter’s gags are real groaners. But most mildly land near the target, and a few hit the bullseye. It doesn’t hurt when you have folks like Rudd and Poehler selling them. Plus, when you’re throwing this much spaghetti at the wall, some of it’s gotta stick, right?

With a cast that includes Ed Helms, Cobie Smulders, Chris Meloni, Max Greenfield, and Michael Ian Black, They Came Together is never quite as laugh-out-loud funny as you want it to be. But if you’re a fan of Wain’s knowing brand of sophomoric slapstick silliness, his “When Joel Met Molly” satire will send you into “I’ll have what she’s having” fits of ecstasy.

Sundance 2014: Michael Fassbender, Nick Offerman, and Roger Ebert headline Premieres

The Sundance Film Festival announced the titles selected to screen in its out-of-competition Premieres and Documentary Premieres sections. Last year, the movies that were launched in these categories — which typically highlight filmmakers who’ve appeared at Sundance before — included Before Midnight, Don Jon, and The Way Way Back; this year appears to be just as promising. In Lynn Shelton’s Laggies, a young woman stuck in arrested-development (Keira Knightley) has her life upended by an unexpected marriage proposal. In David Wain’s They Came Together — surely, a naughty pun, yes? — Wet Hot American Summer alums Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd reunite for Wain’s satire of what seems to be a Woody Allen romantic-comedy. Poehler’s Parks and Recreation co-star Nick Offerman takes center stage for his own concert film, Nick Offerman: American Ham. “He’s very much a storyteller and humorist,” says Sundance’s director of programming Trevor Groth. “It actually has not just laughter, but some emotion, in terms of his views on life and love.”

But the slate isn’t just comedies. (This is Sundance after all.) Michael Shannon and Nicholas Hoult star in Jake Paltrow’s Young Ones, a genre-bender “that’s really a Western in its form and function,” says Sundance’s director John Cooper.

For those of you hoping to see Michael Fassbender in a Sundance movie, you’re in luck… aaand you’re out of luck. Fassbender plays a musical genius in Lenny Abrahamson’s movie, Frank. “His character wears a giant ceramic head the entire film, so you’ve got this [actor] who can basically take any film role out there and he takes one where he hides his face,” says Cooper. “A brave choice from someone who’s known for his brave choices.”

At least Ryan Reynolds has the good taste to be in a Sundance movie that doesn’t hide his face (or trap him in a coffin). That’s not to say his character in Marjane Satrapi’s The Voices doesn’t have some baggage. Reynolds plays a mentally unbalanced factory drone whose attempts at office romance don’t work out. When things turn unexpectedly violent, he begins to hear the voices of his pets as they advise him what to do next. “It’s a jolt,” says Groth. “[Ryan] does something really inventive. Believe me, the talking cats and dogs are the least of your problems in this movie.”

As always, some of the festivals most promising movies are documentaries. Rory Kennedy (Ethel) returns to Park City with the Last Days of Vietnam, which investigates the U.S. orders to evacuate only American personnel, leaving behind loyal South Vietnamese as Saigon fell to the Communists. Amir Bar-Lev digs deep into Happy Valley to investigate the culture that enabled Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky to abuse countless youths. Steve James, who directed Hoop Dreams, chronicles the career of the late Roger Ebert in Life Itself.

Mitt Romney will also make an appearance of sorts. The former Salt Lake City Olympics CEO and presidential candidate is the subject of a documentary from Greg Whitely, simply titled Mitt. “It gave me a whole new sort of perspective on politicians and what they have to go through,” says Cooper. “Just the rigor if it, and how the family has to be part of this process.”

One potential breakout documentary is The Battered Bastards of Baseball, the true story of the Portland Mavericks, an independent minor-league baseball team founded by actor Bing Russell in the 1970s. “He put together this team that ended up being this great David versus Goliath, Bad News Bears story of these rag-tag group of players that became winners,” says Groth. “Kurt Russell was there as a young guy following the team around and [Little Children director] Todd Field was the bat-boy. It’s just an amazing story and I think it’s going to be a real crowd-pleaser.”

Click below for Sundance’s complete listing of Premieres. READ FULL STORY

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