In half the horror film reviews that I write, I always to be cross at the same thing – the found-footage horror film, which I think is a plague on the genre. I bring this up because the more I watch comedy, the more it seems that there is a similar plague befalling comedy. They always have the same pieces, just ordered slightly differently – slacker imbecile men (and women, because yay feminism), a scene where someone takes drugs, speech infused with shoehorned pop culture references, attempts at generating emotion, a story that serves to set up naff gags – and sandwiched in the same crap bowl. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is the latest example of that, and it is about as good as I’ve implied.
Mike and Dave Stangle (Adam DeVine and Zac Efron) are young, adventurous and fun-loving brothers with a tendency to get out of control at family gatherings. When their sister Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard) reveals her Hawaiian wedding plans, the rest of the family insist that they both bring respectable dates to the ceremony. After placing an ad on Craigslist, the siblings decide to pick Tatiana and Alice (Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick), two charming and seemingly normal waitresses. Once they arrive on the island, however, Mike and Dave realise that their companions are ready to go wild and party hard, and chaos ensues.
I’ve outlined the story, but it doesn’t really matter too much – it really is just a framework for gags, and it is so overblown in its execution, you suspect it realises most of them simply aren’t very funny. Don’t get me wrong, I laughed a fair bit throughout this film, and it’s not that it’s unfunny – rather, it is too stupid and therefore simply isn’t as funny as it believes itself to be. Saying daft things or just heading into non-sequiturs is not the say as a joke. (Some of the set-ups are also quite frustrating. An example of this is a scene where Jeanie comes to some harm (you’ll know what I mean) – it plays it for funny, with slow-motion and daft facial expressions, but the joke doesn’t work because Jeanie is more than able to move out of the way.)
It’s such a shame that some prime talent was brought on-board, because they rarely have stuff to work with – the interactions between our four leads are really the highpoint, and I imagine they would have been hilarious if they had some decent gags. Plaza is clearly having great fun with the role, driving most of the film’s zanier moments. Efron (pretty much carving a niche in the average slacker comedy market) is cast here as the straight man to DeVine’s eccentricities (although he still manages to be funnier than him, with DeVine spending half the time screaming and shouting), and he also gets to share a nice rapport with Kendrick.
Here, Kendrick plays against type, contrasting her kind-hearted persona with scenes of her getting up to very adult behaviour – she (as well as Beard) hit the balance the film should have, somewhere with genuine heart and outrageous humour. Mike and Dave tries to generate some emotion, but it spends so much time trying to make the gags work that it never imbues the characters with any humanity. It also attempts to posit itself as progressive – there are fleeting mentions of feminism and heteronormativity, for example – but nothing comes of them. It wants to be insightful, but it isn’t.
Throughout Mike and Dave, Stephen Root’s father spends the movie looking peeved at happenings, before he finally capitulates a bit at the end – watching this film, I felt somewhat like that. There are chuckles to be had here, but I wish Mike and Dave could have spent some more time on trying to be a bit funnier.
Director: Jake Szymanski
Cast: Zac Efron (Dave Stangle), Adam Devine (Mike Stangle), Anna Kendrick (Alice), Aubrey Plaza (Tatiana), Stephen Root (Burt), Stephanie Faracy (Rosie)
Running Time: 98 Mins