'Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates'
‘Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates’ succeeds almost in spite of its premise. Loosely based on the true story of the Stangle brothers, who put an ad on Craigslist that went viral and… yadda yadda yadda, a book and movie deal… it could have easily been a braindead bro comedy. Thanks to clever writing, directing, and especially casting, the thing kind of works.
The movie isn’t brilliant by any means and certainly won’t live on for long, but the laughs come at a steady clip. It’s exactly the sort of thing that should work for audiences in this hazy stretch of the summer movie season when expectations are low and all anyone really wants is to be entertained in air conditioning.
Zac Efron and Adam Devine star as a pair of unambitious party boy brothers who have a knack for spoiling family events. One of director Jake Szymanski’s (‘SNL’, ‘7 Days in Hell’) best visual gags comes early; a glossy party-time opening credit sequence is undercut when the boys’ parents show home videos in which every glorious party shot is cut short by destruction and drunken idiocy, prompting Mike (Devine) to question what happened to all the slo-mo panning shots. Anyhoo, their sister (Sugar Lyn Beard) is about to get married and the fam begs the boys to bring dates to calm down their wild instincts. So they put an ad on Craigslist, which goes viral and lands them on a talk show. That’s where two equally insane cocktail waitresses (Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick) spot the duo and decide to pretend to be nice girls for an expensive trip. Their scam works and everyone heads to Hawaii for the big wedding, where things will obviously go wrong through classic comedic mix-ups.
This is not a particularly inspired story. In fact, the movie has very few plot twists that can’t be spotted from a mile away and little to no surprises in how the story plays out. Everyone involved was stuck with a pitch sold on the Stangles’ tale, and where they make the movie work is in the details. ‘Neighbors’ screenwriters Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien don’t for a second play the tone as remotely realistic even though it came from life, and director Szymanski doubles down on cartoonish insanity. Every predictable scene is milked for maximum lunacy with the cast clearly improvising up a storm to cram in as many filthy and ridiculous jokes as possible. That’s not exactly uncommon in the world of Hollywood comedy, but it rarely works so well.
A big thing that helps distinguish this flick from a sea of ‘Hangover’ clones is the fact that it has no stuffy straight men or women in cast. Everyone is ridiculous and both Kendrick and Plaza’s characters are as wild, filthy and party-ready as the boys, often even more so. Kendrick can do the doe-eyed sweetheart thing in her sleep, so she complicates things by playing a genuinely damaged weirdo that she somehow makes empathetic. Plaza drops her usual eye-rolling routine to play an irrationally confident and borderline sociopathic hedonist with sarcastic charm. Adam Devine elevates his alcohol-fueled bro to cartoonish extremes in ways that made viewers love him on ‘Workaholics’, while Zac Efron continues his Channing Tatum-lite route of playing a knowing parody of a dumbbell beefcake.
There are no straight acts here. They’re all nutballs and partner up believably when the inevitable love plots pile on. Around the edges, Szymanski tosses in talented comedy character actors such as Stephen Root (‘Office Space’) and Sam Richardson (‘Veep’) to ensure that even the smaller roles and less familiar faces are just as unhinged.
‘Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates’ is exactly the type of forgettable party comedy you’d imagine. However, at least it was made and played by people more talented than the material deserved and who actually cared about making this thing as funny as possible at all times. That goes a long way. More often than not, the laughs line up so consistently that it’s easy to forget how pedestrian the plot connecting all the material is. That said, it’s deeply stupid and completely disposable, but these qualities are pretty much genre requirements. At least the comedy works. You won’t feel ripped off or pandered to if you’re willing to see this thing in the first place. It’s nice to get what you want in movies, even when you’re going for something strictly B-level.