Despite a smattering of funny moments, this notably unoriginal mashup of its own comedic hero (Wedding Crashers) and pop culture quips fails to satisfy due to its story and disappointingly developed female characters.
Everyone should go into movies as blind as possible; yes, I look at Rotten Tomatoes beforehand, but only to determine whether it’s worth seeing some films at all. In the case of Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates, I managed to remain unaware until after my screening that the film was inspired by a book based on real events. After doing some online digging, I came across an interesting piece at Observer titled: “Mike and Dave Need a Gender Studies Course.” Author Dana Schwartz interviewed the real Mike and Dave Stangle, and quickly determined their discussion wouldn’t be fruitful; she instead chose to write an article in which she pulls quotes from the brothers’ own writing to support her thesis:
This book is sexist in its most dangerous and insidious form: the subtle sexism of nice guys who treat their moms and their sisters and their girlfriends well.
Although I encourage you to read the article yourself (it isn’t very long), I’ll offer two of my “favorite” lines from the Stangle brothers’ book that Schwartz highlights:
“We’ll probably sneak a few looks at those boobies. Don’t be offended by this. Dogs aren’t offended when another dog sniffs their butt.”
“Want to know what a guy likes in the sack? You should probably check out some porn.”
Although the above makes me worry that my collectively liberal readership will swear off this movie because of its misogyny, I urge against this; although Mike & Dave certainly won’t be mistaken for feminist, it’s hardly misogynistic either. While certainly not a perfect indicator, it does pass the Bechdel test, and has an equal number of parts and screen time for its female and male characters. Unfortunately, this doesn’t change the fact that screenwriters Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien (they co-wrote Neighbors and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) prove that, once again, despite their efforts, they just don’t know how to write good roles for women yet, and that their comedy isn’t strong enough to support a feature film.
To its credit, Mike & Dave opens with a relatively economic first act: we quickly learn that the eponymous havoc-wreaking brothers (Adam Devine and Zac Efron) need to bring dates their family approves of to their sister’s upcoming wedding. After a beer-induced brainstorm, they cast a wide net online, including a Craigslist ad that goes viral and leads to a montage in which Mike and Dave meet, and consequently turn down, women (and even one man) from various walks of life. Their search reaches peak desperation on “The Wendy Williams Show,” and draws the attention of our female protagonists, Tatiana and Alice (Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick); the cash-poor bad girls hatch a plan, and after Aubrey Plaza gets hit/hits a car, we’re off to Hawaii for the promised antics.
Thankfully, the setup demands little in the way of plot development, and the story putzes along non-consequentially through its second act. This gives the filmmakers their chance to barrage us with comedy, in the hopes that we simply enjoy ourselves and laugh our way through. While fairly successful for the film’s first half, it leads to an inevitable second half collapse; if you don’t work in a solid story and characters throughout, no one is going to care about your resolution at the end. This, of course, speaks to the nature of the film’s jokes, which are a far cry from inventive, present for the sake of being funny, not for the sake of developing a character; the more memorable set pieces rely on nonsensically violent slapstick or sexual dynamics seen coming from a mile away, and most of the punchlines are purposeless, pop-culture based humor.
The film’s four stars are inevitably tasked with the burden of making something from nothing every moment. The job is easier for Devine and Efron, as their interactions feel more realized; as I’ve never been a woman, it’s hard for me to say whether this is a fault of my own interpretation, especially considering I am someone who’s very close with his brother, or more so due to the writing itself (I’d like to say I’m leaning towards the latter). While the boys play it as you’d expect—Efron does some freaking out, and then Devine does some freaking out a bit better—Plaza decides to work in order to make something of her part, playing Tatiana as a rough, wrong-side-of-the-tracks, doesn’t-take-any-shit badass. This presents a modicum of pathos at the end, but feels throughout as if Plaza overextends herself; her shtick is often cringe worthy, as she’s better when she lets parts come to her, and thus deserves better comedic work than this. Meanwhile, Kendrick seems to recognize that she’s perhaps the underdeveloped emotional center of a broad comedy, and doesn’t do too much work because of it; she’s certainly the least funny of the four. But if Plaza tries too hard, and Kendrick phones it in (note any of her emotional scenes that she plays for jokes rather than for feelings), it’s hard to be upset with either of them, as there wasn’t much here to begin with.
Unsurprisingly, Mike & Dave offers no critique regarding the downfalls of growing up under the lucrative financial wings of an old-money W.A.S.P. family. Though their father (played by Stephen Root) mentions several times throughout that he thinks they’re screw ups and can’t understand their actions, Mike and Dave hardly come to regret the cushy lifestyle on which they were weened; Dave decides halfway through to pursue his passion for drawing, undoubtably with the promise of daddy’s financial backing, whereas Mike’s heart remains set on running a liquor business that becomes prosperous by a stroke of luck in the third act. In fact, the family money serves as a convenient reason for the somewhat more expensive set pieces (particularly the Jurassic Park themed ATV trip), but when money is spent uncontrollably, at least in Hollywood, it tends to result in a product that’s more of a lazy reiteration that capitalizes on nostalgia than something worthwhile to the art form.
This leaves not much more to be said about Mike & Dave, other than mentioning it’s all too similar to its revered spiritual guide: Wedding Crashers (dir. David Dobkin, 2005). Both are double buddy comedies, concerned with prolonging a rouse in the weeks leading up to, or just after, a wedding. It’s hard not to feel like Mike & Dave is just an amateur copy of the classic comedy, as there’s a certain timelessness to Wedding Crashers that the imitation just doesn’t have; the jokes are rooted more in character than situations, which allows for a legitimate emotional arc, whereas Mike & Dave draws too heavily on referencing what’s popular in 2016 to provide any substance (not to mention Mike & Dave doesn’t have a Will Ferrell level cameo). In fact you’d be better served by saving a little money and streaming Wedding Crashers at home than taking the time to go see something as unimportant and predictable as Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates.
Grade: 4/10 or C+