Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for crude sexual content, language throughout, drug use and some graphic nudity
Running Time: 98 min.
Cast: Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Aubrey Plaza, Anna Kendrick, Sugar Lyn Beard, Stephen Root, Sam Richardson, Alice Wetterlund, Mary Holland, Stephanie Faracy, Kumail Nanjiani
Cameo: Wendy Williams
Director: Jake Szymanski
Screenplay: Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O'Brien
Review published June 29, 2016
If you've seen your share of raunchy comedies in the last fifteen years, you'll be well aware of the modern formula in comedy. There's usually no real script in place other than an outline before the cameras start to roll, and the director, writers and comedians riff a variety of funny things to say and do as they go along in filling out trest. The result is usually an uneven film that offers (if we're lucky) plenty of moments of humor that made the final cut among the dozens of things they may have filmed for each scene.
Adam DeVine (The Intern, Pitch Perfect 2) and Zac Efron (We Are Your Friends, That Awkward Moment) play the Mike and Dave of the film's title, respectively, two irresponsible party animals who've merely used all their family get-togethers as excuses to get drunk, chase skirts, and invariably embarrass their kin through shenanigans that cause more mayhem than mirth (the Wedding Crashers comparisons are so obvious it gets referenced directly during the movie). As such, when it comes time for their sister's wedding in Hawaii, the family makes it an absolute requirement for them to bring dates along to, hopefully, keep their ids in check. They can't just bring any dates though, they must be "nice girls" that meet the approval of their sister and parents.
Not really knowing any nice girls personally, Mike and Dave take to the internet to advertise an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii for women who would fit the criteria of not only being respectable enough for the family to give their blessing to, but also attractive enough for the young men to get it in the sack before the excursion is complete. After an extensive round of preliminary dates (their Craigslist ad goes viral), the boys settle on Tatiana (Plaza, Playing It Cool) and Alice (Kendrick, Into the Woods), knockouts who pretend to be good girls in order to score the vacation, but secretly are even more irresponsible hedonists than Mike and Dave. Occasional hilarity ensues.
The basic premise of the film, it turns out, is inspired by a couple of real-life brothers of the same name from a suburb of Albany, New York, who needed dates in order to attend the wedding of a cousin, resulting in a funny Craigslist ad for women to respond to that subsequently went viral and landed them on the "Today" show. This and their past humorous experiences resulted in a book deal, published in 2015, entitled, "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates -- And a Thousand Cocktails". And now, of course, a movie deal. Artistic liberties are taken from there. The rest of the family and their actual dates are entirely fictionalized whole-cloth for the comedic potential, as well as the events that transpire leading up to the date of the wedding, but the overall tongue-in-cheek vibe of Mike and Dave Stangle remains embedded in the storyline, even if it is played just for silly yuks.
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates benefits from a likeable and talented cast who have no problems "going all in" in order to do anything required of them to squeeze out laughs out of a premise that, in and of itself, isn't really rife with clever potential. The premise doesn't hold to much scrutiny, as it seems that an intervention to force two 'bros' to have dates to keep them from carousing and causing problems makes little sense given that they plan on carousing with the dates, if they are interested, or will spend time getting into trouble, if they aren't.
Jake Szymanski, who cut his teeth as a director doing lots of web shorts and TV episodes (including the HBO faux-doc about tennis, "7 Days in Hell"), helms his first feature film, and does an adequate job keeping it all together, perhaps because the entire project feels like it is a collection of short skits all surrounding a centrally plotted theme. The tone is a bit rocky from time to time, and some segments are DOA on arrival (a trite scene involving microphones being accidentally left on unbeknownst to the speakers is an example), but the joke-a-second comedy benefits from plenty of changes in sketch scenarios and wacky characters to follow.
Although much of the dialogue is obviously improvised (outtakes with the actors trying many different versions of scenes we see (or don't see) in the movie give that away), the screenplay is credited to the team of Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O'Brien, who rose out of the Judd Apatow camp to write similar sketch-based ad-libbed comedies, Neighbors and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Zac Efron is a natural choice, given he's worked with this team before in both Neighbors films, but he mostly takes a back seat in the comedy department to Adam DeVine, channeling his inner Jack Black in the part. However, both men are persistently upstaged by the female comedic quartet of Plaza and Kendrick as the dates, and Sugar Lyn Beard (Aloha) and Alice Wetterlund (The Interview) as the daffy bride-to-be and predatory bisexual sister who has eyes to also score with the Aubrey Plaza character.
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is watchable enough as a comedy, and has a handful of solid chuckles, and perhaps a dozen or so other amusing moments propelled by the quality of the comedic acting to keep most people seeking a funny party comedy properly engaged. However, the formula of the film is derivative of better comedies that have done it better, and there is a sense of desperation to the movie to keep everything ratcheted up to maximum energy in order to pave over the fact that there isn't much of a story here to follow otherwise. if you like fast-paced, vulgar comedies, this will provide that, but those looking for something new or novel beyond the occasional funny reference or mean-spirited insult should probably seek entertainment elsewhere. For Efron devotees, all you need to know is that it's not as good as Neighbors, but definitely a step up (or a whole case of stairs, really) from Dirty Grandpa, which also features Aubrey Plaza in a similar train-wreck role.
©2016 Vince Leo