Published Jul 07, 2016Cobbled together as if by aliens who had just binge-watched the entire Judd Apatow canon, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates takes a juvenile and extremely broad screenplay that was, in all likelihood, crudely sketched out on a cocktail napkin and then lets its cast loose to try and bring their predictable scenes to life. The fact that it has as many laughs as it does is a testament to their abilities only.
Based on a true story (or at least "sort of," as its opening titles read), Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates tells the tale of Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) Stangle, two aimless brothers who are busy wrecking every family event when they aren't trying to kick-start their fledgling alcohol sales business. When their parents decide that the duo bringing dates to their sister's destination wedding in Hawaii is the only way to keep them occupied enough to avoid disaster this time around, the boys place a Craigslist ad to find a couple of "good girls" that quickly goes viral.
Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) and Alice (Anna Kendrick) avoid the traditional route and stage their own meet-cute with Mike and Dave without letting on that they've seen the ad. Tatiana is worried that Alice has lost her groove after being recently rejected at the altar and seizes the opportunity to score a free vacation and recapture their hard-partying ways in the process. Of course, they begin to struggle to maintain their "good girl" appearance in front of Mike and Dave and their family once in Hawaii, and start to wreak havoc of their own.
Writers Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O'Brien (who also wrote Neighbors and its recent sequel) clearly favour gags over elements like story and character, crafting a series of hit-and-miss lowbrow comic set pieces here. We get a Jurassic Park ATV tour that's headed straight for disaster, a bisexual cousin (Alice Wetterlund) who has her sights set on stealing Tatiana away from Mike, a masseur (Kumail Nanjiani) who gives the bride the "full release" treatment and a requisite drug trip that threatens to derail the rehearsal dinner. When the film does eventually try to have its characters connect on some sort of real level, the best it can do is essentially duplicate the same scene for both of its romantic pairings since they all have practically the exact same issues to work through anyway.
And yet, the cast is able to make individual scenes funny in spite of the overly familiar framework. Efron is especially surprising, following up his standout turn in the Neighbors sequel with another performance that suggests he's more than just a six-pack of abs and has the comedic chops to hold his own alongside some of the best. Still, it's Devine and Plaza who end up doing most of the heavy lifting and, though it's impossible to tell just how much improvisation is included in the final product, the outtakes during the credits certainly suggest they've manufactured their fair share of funny lines that weren't on the page.
Director Jake Szymanski, making his feature film debut after helming shorts like the enjoyable Funny or Die tennis comedy 7 Days in Hell and the John Mulaney stand-up special New in Town, seems to have a sense of how to make individual scenes amusing enough on their own, but lacks the ability to have it all hang together as any sort of cohesive story. In the post-Apatovian comedy landscape, it's the kind of thing that can really separate a pretender like this from the genuine article. Mike and Dave may need wedding dates, but more than that, they also need us to care about them a little bit.