Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (United States, 2016)

July 08, 2016
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Poster

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates exemplifies what passes for “raunchy comedy” these days: plenty of vulgarity and profanity without many accompanying laughs. In trying to push the R-rated envelope, filmmakers have become so focused on being outrageous that they have lost sight of being funny. There’s a skill to generating hilarity from nonstop profanity and the creative team of director Jake Szymanski and writers Andrew Jay Cohen & Brendan O’Brien don’t have it. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is steeped in swearing but little of it contributes to the film’s “comedy.” Like much of what transpires during the course of this production, it’s just crass.

The story makes as much sense as any modern R-rated comedy’s narrative - which is to say, not much. Dave (Zac Efron) and Mike Stangle (Adam Devine) are hell-raising brothers. They like to have a good time and sometimes their idea of a “good time” crosses a line into mayhem. More often than not, their antics turn family events into 911 calls. Their parents, Burt (Stephen Root), and Rosie (Stephanie Faracy), are determined to put an end to this. So, for the wedding of their daughter, Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard), they have decided to implement a new rule: for Dave and Mike to attend, they must bring dates. For reasons that are never clearly explained, the Strangles believe that female companionship will somehow curb Dave and Mike’s destructive tendencies.

Getting dates with “nice” girls is a problem for the boys so they turn to the Internet for help. Pretty soon, their ad - offering an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii - has gone viral and attracted the attention of a lot of women, most of whom are undesirable as traveling companions. Among the potential dates are Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza), women who are the exact opposite of what Dave and Mike are looking for. But they want to go to Hawaii, so they fake it. Their plan works and, once they end up on the shores of the 50th state, their true natures emerge.

By design, comedies rarely feature strong narratives or believable character arcs. These movies have a single purpose: to infect viewers with paroxysms of laughter. It stands to reason that the more one laughs during a film, the less he or she will care about things like whether the protagonist has a compelling backstory or the ending is credible. When a production is unable to generate the level of humor necessary to keep the audience in stitches, the screenwriting deficiencies become apparent. In something like Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, the paucity of good jokes makes the film’s journey 98 minutes of tedium. The comedy fails in large part because of laziness. There’s nothing clever here. The filmmakers believe that broad, obvious gags, pratfalls, and profanity-laced tirades are inherently funny. They’re not. Those things generate laughter when someone shapes, tweaks, or delivers them in such a way that they lose the predictable, generic quality that permeates nearly every moment of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. On those few occasions when this movie tickles the funny bone, it’s because of something unexpected or seemingly spontaneous.

Zac Efron is a good-looking man but he brings little in the way of screen presence to the movie. There’s little to differentiate Dave from the character Efron played in the two Neighbors movies. Adam Devine has the unenviable role of playing the loud, socially awkward brother and his performance consists of overacting and making strange faces. Anna Kendrick, the Pitch Perfect princess, fails to convince us that she can be a bad girl. The only one who fits comfortably into her role is Aubrey Plaza, who is credible for about two-thirds of the proceedings until the script assassinates her character.

There’s nothing unique in the failure of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. The ability to make a good comedy has become a lost art and much of what we see is like this. The expectation is that we’ll laugh because it’s supposed to be funny not because it is funny. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates spends the entirety of its running length going through the motions.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (United States, 2016)

Run Time: 1:38
U.S. Release Date: 2016-07-08
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Sexual Situations, Drugs, Nudity)
Genre: Comedy
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1