Every character in writer-director David Wain's romantic comedy parody "They Came Together" is a type and a joke: the "vaguely but not overtly Jewish" male lead (Paul Rudd), the cutely klutzy female lead (Amy Poehler), the wrong guy for her (Ed Helms), his hot and troubled ex (Cobie Smulders), and so on.
Such surface gags are fine for the purposes of a sketch needling the conventions of Hollywood's boy-meets-girl factory product, but a feature-length lampoon needs more than rubbery performances, so-so silliness and the constant thrum of meta humor to make it a consistently amusing variation on a theme.
The early promise was that Wain's and co-writer Michael Showalter's movie would recall the inspired, nicely sustained cult yukfest "Wet Hot American Summer." Rather, they seem hampered by the fact that they've got to tell a romantic comedy story and make fun of it at the same time, and that leaves even the smart bits — the hackneyed circumstances that keep couples apart, a running gag on scene-ending expressions of poignant gratitude — feeling more archly amusing than laugh-worthy.
There's fun to be had in "They Came Together," but the sharper, more exuberant and — yes — heartfelt riff on the genre is already out there in "22 Jump Street."
"They Came Together"
MPAA rating: R for language and sexual content.
Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes.
Playing: At AMC Universal CityWalk; Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena; AMC Orange 30; Los Feliz 3.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times