Bil’s rating (out of 5): B
USA, 2014. Lionsgate. Screenplay by Michael Showalter, David Wain. Cinematography by Tom Houghton. Produced by Michael Showalter. Music by Matt Novack, Craig Wedren. Production Design by Mark White. Costume Design by Dana Covarrubias. Film Editing by Jamie Gross.
At last, they finally made a movie for people who want to tell their rom-com-loving friends how stupid they are. Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler are at dinner with Ellie Kemper and Bill Hader, the latter couple asking the former how they met and fell in love. Rudd and Poehler spin them a lengthy tale that purposely spoofs the last twenty years of romantic comedies, including their meet-cute on the street in identical Halloween costumes and the impossibility of their relationship because of their jobs (she runs a charming independent candy store where she gives food away to kids for free, he works for the corporate candy company that wants to put her out of business). His life comes complete with sexy, vengeful ex-girlfriend (Cobie Smulders) and villainous workplace rival (Michael Ian Black), hers includes a sassy black best friend (Teyonah Parris) and a bitter, single sister. All of these obvious recalls of annoyingly familiar genre conventions would be great fun to indulge in if they were done in the right spirit, but despite a stacked cast of comedy greats (we’ve also got Jason Mantzoukas, Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino, Randall Park involved), not a minute of this mess is bearable thanks to the cruelty coming from behind the camera by director David Wain and co-writer Michael Showalter. The charm with which they recreated the silliness of eighties camp comedies in Wet Hot American Summer has here given way to what feels like two guys trying to tell their girlfriends how much they hate them; none of the jokes are incorrect, every stereotype of films selling a ridiculous fantasy about romance is accurately charted; compare it to the Rebel Wilson comedy Isn’t It Romantic doing the same thing five years later, a film which made fun of the movies themselves, it didn’t insult their audience. Instead of recreating the actual tone of a romantic comedy, what we get here are provocative incest jokes and nonsensical violence; the fact that some of the film’s more ridiculous excesses are actually funny doesn’t change the fact that, like so many of its kind, it amounts to one very mean joke spread out over eighty minutes.