In some respects, more comedies should emulate the approach of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. The new film – which marks the theatrical debut for longtime Funny or Die director Jake Szymanski – is one that knows exactly what it is and appears completely at peace with its own place within the genre. For that reason, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates remains unencumbered by an overabundance of narrative weight and is allowed to focus simply on delivering very R-rated laughs.
Based on a true story (“sort of,” as the film itself proclaims), Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates tells the tale of the titular Stangle brothers (Adam Devine and Zac Efron, respectively) as they search for a pair of respectable dates to take to their sister’s destination wedding. Naturally, this fun-loving duo is duped by two out-of-control slackers (Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick) looking for a free trip to Hawaii, and what starts as a simple mission to placate their family leaves Mike and Dave in danger of ruining the entire event.
That central premise gives way for a series of increasingly over-the-top misadventures, and perhaps as a byproduct of its broad premise, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates bears the same episodic feeling as many other recent hit comedies. Some of the incidents (to remain as vague and spoiler-free as possible) are funnier than others, though they are underscored by a true character-driven focus that rings true by the time the credits roll. However, the film’s strength lies not in its gag-laden script — which offers mixed results at best — but the remarkable quartet of young stars at its center.
On the surface, none of the four actors are doing anything particularly fresh this time around. For instance, Efron riffs on his party-guy-with-a-heart-of-gold routine familiar to fans of Neighbors and its recent sequel, and Kendrick taps into her adorkable screen persona with ease, albeit venturing into edgier territory than her Pitch Perfect character. Yet, the cast delivers uniformly strong performances, lending enough humor and heart to their characters to emotionally ground the insanity contained within Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.
Among this ensemble, Devine and Plaza emerge the true standouts, handily upstaging their higher-billed co-stars. As the wackier halves of their respective duos, the two actors embrace the absurdity of the film, and their manic and dry sensibilities neatly contribute most of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates‘ best moments. Whether they are trading one-liners or flirtatiously whispering into each other’s ears (in a particularly memorable extended sequence), Devine – who, like Kendrick, has seen his career explode since the 2012 release of Pitch Perfect – and Plaza are a joy to watch every second they’re onscreen.
Collectively, the four stars of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates may even represent some of the sharpest big-screen comedy stars of their generation. The fact that they have consistently charmed audiences throughout their respective careers – expertly playing off of each other in various combinations over the past few years – bodes well for the future of comedy on film. Even though Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates lets its cast down at times, they ably do all they can to keep the spark of energy alive. In fact, whenever the film veers away from the chemistry among the four of them (or leans on the crutch of cliché to resolve conflict) it starts to falter, almost as if the filmmakers were relying too heavily on their talented cast to elevate the story around them.
Judging by the film’s marketing campaign, it looks like quite a bit of footage was trimmed out of the final release of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, meaning it’s likely that fans of the film will be able to check out an “extended, unrated and uncut” edition somewhere down the line. Whether any of that deleted footage would have improved the film is anyone’s guess. Still, it’s easy to imagine how Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates was stitched together to include one crass setup after another regardless of how funny each individual sequence actually is. Sometimes, the goal of shocking audiences with naughty adult humor is directly at odds with telling the best possible story, and this film reflects that.
In any case, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates should particularly connect with fans of films like Wedding Crashers, as the two movies share a kinship that the former acknowledges outright at one point. The jokes therein may not have a 100% success rate, but at least the charming cast – especially Devine and Plaza – manage to make it a worthwhile time at the movies.
The comedy in Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates may not have a 100% success rate, but at least the charming cast - especially Adam Devine and Aubrey Plaza - manage to make it a worthwhile time at the movies.