With their sister’s wedding approaching, Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) are forced into finding respectable dates for the big day. They ultimately settle on Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) and Alice (Anna Kendrick) — but it soon becomes clear the girls are far from good choices.
“I’m really dumb,” says Mike (Devine), during a confessional moment in Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates. It’s hard not to feel like he’s speaking on behalf of the movie itself. In both concept and execution, it wears its idiocy on its sleeve proudly, and hammers home its raunchiness with the gusto of a teenage boy. It’s a sex comedy with plenty of the former and not nearly enough of the latter.
The titular Mike and Dave (Efron) are bros, in both senses of the word: two brothers living on a consistent diet of high-fives and high jinks. Ostensibly tequila salesmen, much of their time and energy is spent ruining family get-togethers, as destructively as possible. And, as their sister’s wedding approaches — as that ruthlessly efficient title suggests — these guys need dates. But not just any dates — a couple of demure sweethearts, something demanded by their despairing parents, who hope that might drag them towards a state of relative maturity.
It wears its idiocy on its sleeve proudly.
Enter Tatiana (Plaza) and Alice (Kendrick), two hard-drinking waitresses who are going nowhere. Tatiana is a near-alcoholic and compulsive liar; Alice is the more bashful of the two, still licking her wounds from being jilted at the altar. When the pair spot Mike and Dave’s rallying cry of enforced romance, they pounce at the opportunity for an all-expenses jolly to Hawaii. Thus begins a process of nice-ification, in which the ladies adopt fake clean-livin’ personas (as only characters in comedy movies do).
There’s certainly something to be said for the gender parity here: it’s not often we see female characters shown to be as gleefully awful as their male counterparts. But for all its zeitgeisty jokes, the film is not quite as progressive as it thinks it is. The camera leers over naked flesh, and the ultimate lessons learned — bad girls learn to be good girls — feels somewhat like a latter-day take on The Taming Of The Shrew.
For all its zeitgeisty jokes, the film is not quite as progressive as it thinks it is.
Thank goodness, then, for its four leads, each of whom could each easily command a movie alone. Efron — shirtlessness now apparently a contractual obligation — went from Disney darling to comedy kingpin without anyone noticing, and oozes charm. So does Kendrick, who frequently elevates the material beyond its worth. Devine’s contorted facial expressions echo Jim Carrey in the ’90s, while Plaza offers a curiously broad twist to her trademark deadpan delivery.
But Jake Szymanski, in his debut as director, seems unsure how best to use his cast, and too often mistakes risqué for witty. Wacky set-piece follows wacky set-piece. Dialogue ranges from the shouty and vulgar (“If you don’t get in here, I’m going to start masturbating”) to the hopefully improvised (“She looks like a waffle that the chef threw away”) to the head-slappingly hackneyed (“Cheque, please!”). The masseuse industry, meanwhile, will surely be dismayed at yet another tired “happy ending” gag.
Truth, it seems, can be dumber than fiction; the whole sorry thing is, in fact, loosely based on the real-life larks of two actual brothers. But it’s far more indebted to the Frat Pack comedies of the noughties — explicitly so, given that one character namechecks Wedding Crashers. Perhaps it might have felt fresh in 2005. Today, the schtick feels a little weary.
A strong cast can’t rescue the repetitively crude and recklessly derivative material. Mike and Dave need a lot more help than in merely finding wedding dates.