I’m not categorically against movies about idiot coeds – my love for Neighbors 1 and 2 is deep and abiding – but Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is aggressively stupid, an undisciplined free association of noise and puerility. The fact that it’s loosely based on a true story somehow makes everything worse since there are any number of people who deserve a film who aren’t boneheaded white dudes. Some won’t mind spending an hour and a half with such characters, but let’s at least have standards when it comes to storytelling.
The biggest problem is not the masseuse orgasm incident or the heart-to-heart between the titular bozos but the fact that the movie can’t bring these scenes together into one cohesive story. It’s varyingly raunchy and sincere, and you never know if you’re going to get Anna Kendrick doing a porn play-by-play or confronting feelings about being left at the altar. There’s potential for the characters to mature in a way that’s funny and touching, but their evolution needs to be grounded in something real. It’s surprising that a movie with a plot as simple as the title suggests has so much difficulty finding a sense of continuity.
Alcohol salesmen by day, party bros by, well, all day, Mike (Adam DeVine) and Dave Stangle (Zac Efron) need dates for sister Jeanie’s (Sugar Lyn Beard) wedding in Hawai’i, per dad’s orders. The two have a talent for destroying every family gathering, and dad Burt (Stephen Root) reasons that a sensible partner will limit the damage. It sounds like a recipe for more trouble, but maybe that’s me. The brothers post a Craigslist ad that leads to an appearance on Wendy Williams’s show that leads to Mike and Dave’s other, not necessarily better, halves.
It’s hard to best the Stangles’ juvenile behavior, but Alice (Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) are pros, two women with a drug and alcohol problem and absolutely no direction in their lives. While Alice tries to recover from her breakup, Tatiana tries to get her friend a free trip to Hawai’i. They take on the guise of “good girls,” that is a teacher and a hedge fund manager, and convince Mike and Dave that they are just the sensible dates the brothers need.
That’s about all that goes according to plan because everything thereafter is an excuse for chaos. Alice and Tatiana’s attempts to impress the guys and Mike and Dave’s attempts to impress their parents all go wrong and imperil the wedding. There’s some humor in what transpires, though the women’s sweetheart identities gets dropped halfway through, perhaps by bored writers. Nevertheless, things get so wacky at times (cue a very oily Kumail Nanjiani) that you can’t help but laugh. My favorite moments bookend the film, one featuring an exasperated Marc Maron and the other an exasperated fiancé, Eric (Sam Richardson). Richardson, who spends most of the film mute and in the background, could have easily added some quirk, but at least he’s paired with Beard who provides that in handfuls.
Still, you’ll get whiplash as the film goes from bawdy to more modest fare, and once again, Zac Efron finds himself pulled in two different directions. His character hides a lot underneath the frat boy veneer, more so than his brother. The only time I truly connected with Mike was when I learned he liked Ninja Turtle Raphael over Donatello. Taste. However, when Dave is not with his brother, there’s something sweet about his optimism, a life with purpose perhaps. Efron and Kendrick navigate the varying tones of the movie better than their costars and almost steer it into romcom territory, but Efron has a little more to work with. Dave could be an artist if he were a little more ambitious, which is how I feel about Efron’s career.
Prod: Peter Chernin, Jonathan Levine, David Ready, Jenno Topping
Dir: Jake Szymanski
Writer: Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien
Cast: Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Stephen Root, Stephanie Faracy, Sugar Lyn Beard, Sam Richardson, Alice Wetterlund, Mary Holland
Time: 98 min
Country: United States