Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is a poor imitator of recent over-the-top wedding-themed comedies: Bridesmaids, Wedding Crashers and The Hangover. But unlike those films — which attempted to brand their own style of humour — Mike and Dave consistently falls flat by aligning itself with the dumb-jock humour of Dane Cook. This unfunny, insipid mess of a movie relies so heavily on physical gags and obnoxious vocal inflections that at times you forget you’re watching a movie — it could very well be a bad night at an improv comedy bar.
Such mediocrity is a shame because, on paper, the film’s premise sounds promising, the sort of mad-cap adventure found in the Preston Sturges-era of screwball comedies. Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave Stangle (Zac Efron) are man-children whose perilous antics at previous family parties have led their parents to demand they bring “good girl” dates to their sister Jeanie’s (Sugar Lyn Beard) upcoming destination wedding in Hawaii.
After placing a Craigslist ad that goes viral, the brothers meet Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza), a couple of wild girls pretending to be docile, decent women so they can get a free week-long vacation. All they have to do is wear ladylike dresses and claim to have professional careers in teaching and hedge-fund management.
Naturally, it doesn’t take long before their act dries up, but the family is quick to pin any little thing that goes wrong on the brothers, not the innocent female strangers. Among other acts of supposed civility, Tatiana and Alice pull stupefying stunts, like popping ATV wheelies during a tour of the set of Jurassic Park. Mike and Dave are pressured to follow suit in order to look manly, but end up mangling their soon-to-wed sister’s face — on the day before her wedding.
Mike, Dave, Tatiana and Alice are not malicious by nature: as the film demonstrates, they’re just too reckless to realize the consequences of their actions. For example: Alice believes the key to relaxing the poor, maltreated Jeanie is to overtip her masseuse and request a “happy ending.”
The masseuse — a fantastic Kumail Nanjiani who deserves better than bit roles in dumb comedies — brings Jeanie to orgasm multiple times through some indirect back/buttock massage technique involving his Indian guru aura (how unsurprising that a film this dumb would also utilize racist stereotypes). Alice’s bright idea works out (Jeanie is finally able to relax), even though the set-up seems destined for disaster.
Elsewhere, Alice’s cluelessness backfires, like when she offers to take ecstasy pills with Jeanie the night before the wedding. This is one of a few examples where the harebrained antics lead to some funny moments — like a hallucinating Alice and Jeanie freeing horses from a stable — but overall the characters don’t offer any sort of entry to us liking them. This is important because the film demands real character arcs — throughout the film, Mike, Dave, Tatiana and Alice share the realization that they must grow up. But why would an audience identify with people this idiotic and have stakes in their growth?
When you make a film so extreme in depicting silliness, you land on cartoonish buffoonery instead of something emotionally resonant. Their shared epiphany doesn’t feel earned because the film has focused so much time on madcap hilarity that it forgot to flesh out its characters.
As such, the performers are forced to rely on the superficiality of their natural personas: Plaza does her unflappable b—h face thing, Kendrick is cute and boring, DeVine shrieks obnoxiously and Efron’s furrowed brow makes it look like he forgot to turn off the stove. If such vapid vaudevillian acts are your thing, Mike and Dave should please enough, but those allergic to brash comedy should stay far away.