Every year, there seems to be a lower budget comedy that proves a surprise hit, with a winning combination of (juvenile) humor and cast chemistry that marks out a favorite. Think Trainwreck, Neighbors, or This is the End. Challenging for honors this year is Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.
Brothers Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) have a reputation of ruining family occasions. With their younger sister Jeanie’s (Sugar Lyn Beard) wedding in Hawaii approaching, their parents (Stephen Root and Stephanie Faracy) come up with the idea that making them bring dates might curb their partying ways. A drunken Craigslist ad by the pair offering a free trip to the “right girls” goes viral, catching the attention of party girls Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza). Adopting the guise of respectable young professionals, they catch the guys’ attention. It’s only when they get to Hawaii that their true nature becomes apparent. Cue the shitstorm Mike and Dave’s family had hoped to avoid.
Mike and Dave pretty much lives up to both its trailer and its legacy: a physical comedy verging on slapstick with gross-out moments, sexual escapades, vulgar jokes, and a glimpse of Kumali Nanjiani’s penis. It is undoubtedly predictable; you don’t need to have seen the trailer to know the bride to be will sustain a physical injury just prior to the wedding, for example. The moments fit into a formulaic structure, introducing the characters, setting the scene, the clusterfuck begins, epiphanies happen, people achieve personal growth, and they all live happily ever after. It’s the comical moments throughout that people go for, and Mike and Dave delivers that aplenty.
Where Mike and Dave changes things up slightly is in its reversal of the genders associated with the delinquent behavior. The guys may be in the title, but this show is all about the girls, and it gives the film a freshness. Rather then being on the sidelines, or the voice of complaints/reason, here the problems driving the plot stem from the actions of Alice and Tatiana, whether selfish or just blindly stupid. The guys are equally culpable in parts, despite their good intentions, but overall it does present a welcome balance to showing the sexes in both a positive and negative light while exploring many of the trials and tribulations laid out in front of millennials. This is compounded by the largely consequence-free nature of much of the film.
The first act tends to drag a little, but upon arrival in Hawaii the film solidifies, coinciding with the wedding party beginning. This plotline provides the loose framework for the girls to fuck things up, be it a 4×4 ride, a trip to the spa, or the rehearsal dinner. The moral/character development part of the film is sometimes lost amidst the vulgar humor, but it so often is the first casualty in a movie of this nature. It’s undeniably funny, but every so often it loses steam – the quips fail to fly as fast as they should, meaning the misses linger longer in the memory rather than being wiped clean by another quickfire insult or joke. What can’t be denied is the commitment and abilities of the cast.
Zac Effron continues to show his prowess for comedy, albeit in a more straight role here to balance out the OTT approach from Adam Devine. He’s committed to the role with a emotional and physical gusto, but it does wear thin after a little while. Together they form a rather lovable pairing. For those not tired of Aubrey Plaza’s shtick, they’ll enjoy her work here. She cranks up the devilish factor and shows a knack for physical comedy. As abrasive as you’d expect, she becomes far more interesting when she drops the superficial layer. Still, it would be welcome to see her push herself beyond roles of this type. Kendrick plays a far sweeter soul, albeit one in pain. While she starts off a little shaky in the role she gradually becomes MVP, notably in an endearing drug trip sequence involving horses and nudity. There’s also a great supporting cast, notably the fantastic Alice Wetterlund as Mike and Dave’s oversexed lesbian cousin Terry and Kumail Nanjiani as a masseuse who makes his mark in one of the more memorable sequences of the film.
Director Jake Szymanski delivers a film that nestles comfortably alongside The Wedding Crashers and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. It’s well constructed, particularly a nice juxtaposition of the opening home video footage with, just minutes later, a slightly longer sequence shown by their parents to illustrate the havoc they guys ultimately unleash with their partying. This sets the mood for some smart tracking shots, slow-mo sequences, and more that actually help keep the energy of the film up in moments where the comedic levels dip.
Anyone buying a ticket for Mike and Dave will have certain expectations, and the film pretty much delivers on all counts. More than this, it refreshingly puts the female duo front and center, showing an equal opportunities approach to how millennials of both sexes can screw things up. While it may not linger long in the memory, it’ll certainly satiate your need for a raucous summer comedy.
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is released July 8th, 2016.