MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES Review
Director: Jake Szymanski
Reviewing MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES is somewhat difficult for me, because to a large extent, I want to at least mildly defend it against the absolutely acerbic attention it’s gotten. Critics really, really despise this raunchy summer romp, with the New Yorker even going so far as to call it the death of comedy. The improvisatory sensibilities that MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES employs did, in fact, accustom modern audiences to progressively more mediocre “not-dramas” masquerading as “comedy,” but director Jake Szymanski’s antics over the course of this film are certainly no worse than anything we’ve been exposed to before, and trump the ever-more-flaccid work of late-career Apatow (here’s looking at you, TRAINWRECK). It’s Zac Efron, Adam DeVine, Aubrey Plaza, and Anna Kendrick making sex jokes. You should know exactly what you’re getting yourself into, you’ll laugh at least a handful of times, and it’s entirely harmless.
Mike and Dave’s wardrobe choices, however, are dangerously delicious
The premise of the film is eponymous and simple: Mike (Adam DeVine) and Dave (Zac Efron) are informed by their parents that they will be taking dates to the upcoming wedding of their sister Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard) whether they like it or not, as their drunken antics at family gatherings have historically ruined everything for everyone but themselves. One thing leads to another, and soon enough, the substance-abusing and generally destitute Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) put on their best “good girl” faces and are selected as the two dates in question to accompany them on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii for the wedding. And that’s really all of the plot we get.
However, it’s also really all of the plot we need. The film is never either great or terrible, but is much better when it lets the impishly gleeful charge between Adam DeVine and Aubrey Plaza wreck havoc on the wedding and all of its guests. Things falter whenever we’re expected to emotionally identify with anyone to any small degree. The true dud of the film is Alice, whose character arc involving recovering a sense of self-respect after being left at the altar at her wedding is so hackneyed and half-assed that every attempted scene of emotional depth featuring her inspires nothing more than eye rolls and finger drumming. The scant singular scene where Tatiana opens up about a vague and unfounded fear of Alice leaving her if she were ever to find another is similarly vapid, and things don’t fare any better when Dave expresses his desire to stop selling liquor with Mike and instead become a graphic novelist.
He designed those masterful chest tattoos
All that being said, the characters may not be impressive, but at least two of the performances are, and the other two aren’t terrible. As mentioned above, Adam DeVine and Aubrey Plaza could have easily carried the entire vehicle themselves, with DeVine’s sensitive frat boy charm and Plaza’s perverse smarminess interacting perfectly when they’re allowed to reign supreme. Unfortunately, I do need to stress the fact that any use of the word “perfect” comes to mind only whenever that specific pair is sharing the screen; when Plaza is stuck with Kendrick, she adopts some incongruous, code-switching attempt at a vague and unfounded accented ethnicity, and it accordingly leaves a decidedly unpleasant taste in the mouth.
Thankfully, DeVine doesn’t similarly suffer at the hands of Efron, and while Troy Bolton still has some dues to pay before he achieves the position of “new Channing Tatum” that he so clearly craves, he turns in a “half-foil” performance that never slows DeVine down and, on occasion, even bolsters the humor above what DeVine could have achieved alone. Kendrick is game to at least try to make her character interesting, but she never manages to carry her character’s base-level predilections with the same skill as Plaza, and more often than not she’s not given lines with enough comedic heft to succeed in her delivery.
Having never seen it, this is more or less what I picture the entirety of BROAD CITY to consist of
The humor itself hits about half of the time, but even batting .500 is better than many of the comedies that get churned out these days. DeVine’s manic overreactions are almost impossible to not at least crack a smile at, Tatiana’s utter distaste for Mike’s advances humorously juxtaposes the immediate compatibility between Dave and Alice, and the dollops of visual humor (yes, finally, VISUAL HUMOR in a 2016 comedy!!!) are among the more sidesplitting moments. In addition, when the film is willing to swing for the fences and get unequivocally weird, it’s at its most memorable (Kumail Nanjiani’s cameo is probably the main takeaway from the entire affair).
In fact, I would be willing to claim that I laughed more than I didn’t, but there are still egregious comedic missteps that fall into the unfortunate trans- and homophobic legacy of Happy Madison films that get inexplicably fielded. A trans* woman who shows up to attempt to get chosen as Mike and Dave’s wedding date gets the unfortunately expected verbal drudging in a strange callback to ANGER MANAGEMENT, and Cousin Terry (Alice Wetterlund) is a dated lesbian stereotype that coerces Tatiana into “finger-diddling” her in order to get backstage passes to Rihanna. Furthermore, and most frustratingly, the film almost entirely copies dialogue from STEPBROTHERS in the opening scene between Mike, Dave, and Papa Stangle (Sam Root); considering the fact that this is tonally never referenced ever again, it bespeaks of a general laziness.
As seems to be the wont in American mainstream comedies, MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES is never visually interesting, electing to take the tired “point-and-shoot” way out. Topped off with occasional clunky editing, Szymanski’s comic offering is never meant to be anything more than a platform for its currently buzz-y actors, and when it throws all attempts at character development and emotion by the wayside, it’s tacitly amusing at worst and laugh-out-loud funny at its admittedly rare best. I can’t recommend it in good conscious, but there’s certainly no reason to take up arms against it, and I see no reason why it won’t enjoy a fruitful afterlife on Netflix or Redbox.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend