“A nice rule to stick to is to put funny people in comedies,” actress Amy Poehler told an audience at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s (BAM) Harvey Theater Monday night. Hundreds packed the theater to see Poehler, actor Paul Rudd and director David Wain speak about their new movie “They Came Together,” immediately following its New York premiere as part of BAMcinematek’s BAMcinemaFest 2014 series.
Poehler was as comedic in her post-film conversation as she is in her numerous film and TV roles. “I hate my face, so I enjoy being behind the camera,” she joked when asked to compare her experience acting with that of producing and directing.
Wain, known for his cult summer camp spoof “Wet Hot American Summer” (2001), co-wrote “They Came Together” — a spoof on romantic comedies — with Michael Showalter. After the screening, he told the audience it was “great to be in Brooklyn,” and revealed that most of the “low-budget” movie, which had only 23 shooting days, was filmed within walking distance of the BAM theater. In fact, the Brooklyn Promenade figures prominently in the uproarious film, serving as the backdrop for the story’s climax.
The move is a send-up of some of the best-known rom-coms, among them “You’ve Got Mail.” Molly (Poehler) manages “Upper Sweet Side,” a small, quirky candy shop on the Upper West Side, while Joel (Rudd) works at the big candy conglomerate that’s opening across the street.
The film effectively plays off the familiar tropes in modern rom-coms, while exaggerating the absurdity of its cliches. In one scene at Manhattan’s Strand Book Store, Molly and Joel are elated to discover their mutual love of novels, a common interest that supposedly signifies they are destined to be soul-mates. The writers’ and actors’ impeccable sense of comedic timing — along with their hyper-literal treatment of overused phrases and situations — imparts a freshness and sense of absurdity to the inevitable events that ensue.
Actors Ed Helms (“The Office,” “The Hangover”), Ellie Kemper (“The Office,” Bridesmaids”), Bill Hader (“Saturday Night Live,” “Superbad”), Jason Mantzoukas, (“Neighbors”), Max Greenfield (“New Girl”) and Christopher Meloni (“42,” “True Blood”) all play comedic sidekicks; several other celebrities make cameo appearances, among them Judge Judy, John Stamos, Norah Jones and Adam Scott, the actor who plays the love interest of Amy Poehler’s character in “Parks and Rec.”
Kemper and Mantzoukas joined Poehler, Rudd and Wain in conversation on Monday, sharing with the audience their favorite romantic comedies. Kemper expressed a fondness for “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” Mantzoukas revealed that some of his favorites are “Annie Hall” and “Love Actually,” Wain noted his love for “The Graduate,” “Tootsie,” and “all” Woody Allen movies, Poehler said her favorite is “Say Anything,” and Rudd offered both “Lost in America” and “Defending Your Life.”
When asked about rumors of a Netflix series based on “Wet Hot American Summer,” Wain revealed little more than “we’re figuring out details.”
Toward the end of the Q&A, Poehler noted, in response to the politeness of the audience and questioners, “Everyone’s so nice!”
“That’s Brooklyn,” Wain was quick to reply.
“They Came Together” opens June 27 in select theaters and will be available via on-demand outlets the same day. In New York, the movie will show at Brooklyn Heights Cinema (70 Henry St. in Brooklyn Heights), Cinema Village (22 East 12th St. in Greenwich Village) and Empire 25 42nd St. (234 W. 42nd St. in Times Square).
Judging from the audience response on Monday, this comedy should be a summer crowd-pleaser.
BAMcinemaFest, the wildly popular series, continues Wednesday with the New York premiere of “Centerpiece: Snowpiercer,” starring Tilda Swinton, Chris Evans and Jamie Bell; “Stations of the Elevated,” which screens on Friday and celebrates and documents the history of New York graffiti; and Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing,” which will be show on Sunday, along with a Q&A with Lee and the cast. For more information, see bam.org.