Davids Wain and Cross brought their latest films to Sundance London in April for their UK premieres, making for an irresistible double-bill of new American indie comedy. Though wildly different that both films were, it was pretty clear which was the more entertaining.
A wonderful send-up of romantic comedies, Wain’s They Came Together pitches Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler against each other before they inevitably fall in love, break up and make up again, but while there is arguably nothing clever about skewering the rom-com formula when its predictability is much of its appeal, it is a great excuse for a stream of very funny, very silly jokes. As with any spoof, not every gag lands, but few are milked (the key running gag of characters describing plot points and their specific roles in the story could wear thin for some, but it tickled me). There are pratfalls aplenty, copious amounts of mugging, lots of familiar faces from those boned up on the US comedy scene, ridiculous cameos, and everything is kept moving at a brisk pace, so refreshing when the default setting for mainstream American comedy at the moment is baggy improvisation. It’s also a reminder that spoofs don’t need to be Scary Movie or Meet the Spartans, nor coated in Seth MacFarlane’s patented mix of self-satisfied smuggery and distasteful bile – indeed, it’s the best example I’ve seen since Black Dynamite. And are there two more likeable and perfect comedy performers out there right now than Rudd and Poehler? A constant joy.
Less convincing however is David Cross’ directorial debut, Hits, in which schlub Dave Stuben (Matt Walsh) with a bone to pick with the local council finds himself being championed by cause-seeking hipsters after a video of him at a town meeting becomes a sensation. Though intermittently funny, despite the best efforts of its decent cast, its scattershot approach taking pop shots at too many targets leaves the film feeling rather bitty, leaving the central character rather sidelined and key aspects of the story unexplored. Not only that, the targets already feel dated, especially when it comes to a subplot with Dave’s daughter who dreams of becoming famous and will do anything to get on The Voice (“Aren’t kids obsessed with celebrity and TV talent shows today?” – Yawn). That Cross brought up Nathan Barley in the Q&A in reference to the hipsters suggests that he may be aware of being behind the curve anyway, but it feels as relevant as making jokes about the Bush administration. It’s a shame, as there are still things to enjoy about Hits, primarily James Adomian as the head hipster and his amazing outifts. And though few characters are sketched out particularly well, Jake Cherry as confused wigga Cory ends up being the most sympathetic out of a bad bunch. Better than Bobcat Goldthwait’s similarly themed God Bless America, but overall Hits fails to convince.