×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates’

Zac Efron and Aubrey Plaza lead a game cast in a gently nutty comedy that has a bit of cleverness to go with the raunch.

With:
Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Stephen Root, Stephanie Faracy, Sugar Lyn Beard, Sam Richardson, Alice Wetterlund.
Release Date:
Jul 8, 2016

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2823054/

It’s fair to say that anyone who goes to see “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” will expect a certain amount of bang (pun intended) for their buck. The movie, after all, has “wedding” in the title (which, of course, is designed to get you to think of “Wedding Crashers”), and it’s got a poster that makes it look like its four lead characters are just waking up after a fraternity-bash bender from hell. The audience is sure to demand its quota of gross-out gags, gratuitous nudity, discombobulated druggie slapstick, dialogue sprinkled with over-the-top raunch, and at least one sequence in which a character we like gets seriously physically damaged. “Mike and Dave” offers all of that, so no one should walk away too disappointed, but the good news is that the movie, while it rambles on a bit, also has a gently nutty spirit that is often quite winning.

Yes, it’s a piece of product shaped by four decades’ worth of arrested-adolescent farce (going back to the granddaddy of bad-behavior comedy, “National Lampoon’s Animal House”). But when these kinds of movies work at all, it’s not just because they offer cheerfully delinquent man-boys acting out new and improved ways to offend. It’s because they’re comedies of behavior that capture a certain personality flavor of the moment. “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” does that nicely, and one of the main reasons is that the men onscreen are no longer the only ones behaving badly. The women, who used to be victims of this stuff or on the sidelines, are now at the rowdy, disheveled, foul-mouthed center of it all, and that just multiplies the highly agreeable possibilities for naughty nasty lunacy. And, of course, the movie is a love story! Box office prospects look solid or better.

Zac Efron, likably blitzed but basically the straight man, and Adam Devine (from the “Pitch Perfect” comedies), as a rubber-faced geek with a tenuous hold on reality, are Dave and Mike Stangle, brothers who run a business selling liquor wholesale. They’re the lifelong screw-ups of their family, so when the time comes to plan their sister’s destination wedding at a resort in Hawaii, they’re ordered to find respectable dates to bring along, so that they don’t ruin the event by hitting on every woman there. Their search for companions, a nationwide “contest” that begins on YouTube and culminates in their appearance on “The Wendy Williams Show,” is based on the true-life antics of the Stangle brothers, who found 15 minutes of sleaze-fame by trolling for dates on Craigslist. But really, that’s all just designed to give the film a trivial up-to-the-minute hook. (If this were 1995 and Mike and Dave had found their dates via personal ads, it would have been the same movie.)

The joke is that the dates find them, and that they’re even more disreputable than our wastrel-loser heroes. When we meet Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza), they’re the world’s most inept waitresses, bumbling around a restaurant in far-too-skimpy outfits. They’re drunk, but they’re not dumb. After seeing Mike and Dave on TV, they decide they could use a free vacation, and they figure out that the two guys are going to be deluged with unappealing opportunists. So they devise a way to win them over: by arranging to meet them by “accident,” and by coming on as “nice girls.”

It’s here where the comedy really takes off. Aubrey Plaza, who was so sharp playing a good girl pretending to be bad in “The To Do List,” is even sharper playing a bad girl pretending to be good. She’s got a face made for deception — she’s like a devil doll, eyebrows lowering with cunning — and her line readings are killer. When she spits out a line like “We’re gonna flip the script and Bachelorette that s—!” she’s like a hip-hop princess, and when she says of Mike, “He looks like a funhouse mirror version of a better-looking dude, but he is…just that dude,” the line works because you feel her joy in delivering it. She puts on big serious glasses to be Mike’s date for the wedding, pretending to be a school teacher, and Plaza’s impersonation of a sweet, kind soul is so acidly perfect that it brings to mind Gillian Flynn’s description in “Gone Girl” of all the fakery that goes into acting like the Cool Girl. Plaza delivers a satire of niceness, and Kendrick, who truly is playing a nice girl (just a dazed and confused one), provides a daffy stoned counterpoint to Plaza’s gloriously rude misanthropy.

Next to these two, Mike and Dave seem ordinary enough, but beneath their presentable — in Dave’s case, model-hunky — looks, they’re the latest in a long line of characters, stretching from Wayne and Garth to the heroes of “Superbad” and beyond, who view all of reality through a warped media lens. It’s as if everything that happened to them was something they were watching on television. There’s a very funny sequence in which the four characters go riding on dune bikes over the spectacular rolling green stretch of Hawaii where “Jurassic Park” was filmed, and the issue of who’s going to take a daring jump off a small cliff becomes a four-way contest of male-versus-female moxie. Mike starts out as the cowardly wimp — until he decides to go for it, which has unfortunate consequences for his sister, Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard), who winds up with a seriously bruised face right before the wedding. “You look like burn-victim Barbie!” says Mike, only ratcheting up the insensitivity by saying to Jeanie’s fiancée, Eric (Sam Richardson), “And you’re black Ken!” That’s the film’s one and only reference to the fact that Eric is African-American, and it’s perfectly placed, because it becomes a joke on what’s going on deep inside the head of an idiot like Mike (and all the other idiots like him).

“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” doesn’t have a plot so much as it has a messy, ambling sprawl. That’s part of what’s agreeable about it (we’re spared the clank of sitcom setups), but also what’s a little too-much-of-an-okay-thing about it. The film could have used more of the classic screwball structure that gave “Wedding Crashers” its comic punch. Yet it has characters and setups that keep on giving — like the wonderfully quick-on the-draw Alice Wetterlund as Cousin Terry, who’s got designs on Tatiana, as well as a first-rate tripping-on-Ecstasy interlude, and a wildly hilarious sequence in which Jeanie enjoys what might be described as a very nude massage, and the whole issue of whether or not the massage “went too far” becomes a witty turning of the tables on pre-wedding rituals of male hedonism. What’s funny and winning about “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” is that it’s a comedy of equal-opportunity raunch, where everyone in sight is right at home inside the animal house.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates'

Reviewed at AMC Lincoln Square, New York, June 29, 2016. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 98 MIN.

Production: A 20th Century Fox release and presentation, in association with TSG Entertainment of a Chernin Entertainment production. Produced by Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Jonathan Levine. Executive producers, David Ready, Andrew Jay Cohen, Nan Morales, Brendan O’Brien.

Crew: Directed by Jake Szymanski. Screenplay, Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, inspired by the life stories of Mike Stangle and Dave Stangle. Camera (color, widescreen), Matthew Clark; editors, Lee Haxall, Jonathan Schwartz; music, Jeff Cardoni; music supervisor, John Houlihan; production designer, Tyler Robinson; art director, Mark E. Garner; set decorator, Chuck Potter; costumer designer, Debra McGuire; sound, Willie D. Burton; supervising sound editor, Donald Sylvester; re-recording mixers, Jim Bolt, Andy King; visual effects supervisor, Jeremy Burns; visual effects, Arch 9 Films, Comen VFX, Shade VFX; stunt coordinators, Gary Hymes, Michael Trisler; second unit director, Gary Humes; second unit camera, Peter Lyons Collister; assistant director, Lisa C. Satriano; casting, Sheila Jaffe, Jennifer Euston.

With: Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Stephen Root, Stephanie Faracy, Sugar Lyn Beard, Sam Richardson, Alice Wetterlund.

More Film

  • Ryan Destiny Claressa Shields

    Rachel Morrison's Directorial Debut 'Flint Strong' Casts Ryan Destiny as Claressa Shields

    Ryan Destiny, who’s best known for her role in Fox’s “Star,” will play Claressa “T-Rex” Shields in Universal’s biopic “Flint Strong.” The film marks Destiny’s first starring role in a major studio movie after her breakout role in the Lee Daniels series. Based on Zackary Canepari and Drea Cooper’s 2015 boxing documentary “T-Rex,” the story [...]

  • Little Mermaid

    'The Little Mermaid' Turns 30: Inside the Rocky Journey to Make a Disney Classic

    “The Little Mermaid” wasn’t just an animated classic. It was a life raft of sorts for struggling Walt Disney Studios. It’s hard to believe given how dominant Disney is today in the family entertainment space, but when the story of Ariel, a mermaid princess who just wanted to be part of Prince Eric’s world, hit [...]

  • Sylvester Stallone and Burgess Meredith in

    MGM Buying '40 Years of Rocky' to Air on Epix (EXCLUSIVE)

    Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is wrapping up a deal to acquire “40 Years of Rocky: The Birth of a Classic,” Variety has learned. The studio plans to run the documentary, which includes behind-the-scenes footage of the creation of the first film in the franchise, on Epix, the cable channel it co-owns. The initial plan was to begin airing [...]

  • DUMBO US 1941. Photo by: Mary

    Disney Plus Warns Users Older Movies Have 'Outdated Cultural Depictions'

    The newly launched Disney Plus has no shortage of content, ranging from original animated classics to live-action remakes and “Star Wars” offshoot “The Mandalorian.” With that deep library, Disney is offering a warning that some of the streaming platform’s older content has “outdated cultural depictions.” Films like “Dumbo,” “The Aristocats,” “Lady and the Tramp” and [...]

  • 'Lost in London' film rehearsals, at

    AFM: Germany's Tiberius Acquires Woody Harrelson's Comedy 'Lost in London' (EXCLUSIVE)

    German distributor Tiberius Film has acquired the local rights to Woody Harrelson’s comedy “Lost in London” at the American Film Market, as well as two films from Russian producer Central Partnership – action movie “The Ninth” and horror thriller “The Widow.” “Lost in London,” Harrelson’s directorial debut, was experimental. It was shot over a single [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content