Editor’s Notes: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is out in wide theatrical release today, July 8th.
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is a flaming hot mess. Since the movie is depicting a quadrant of ridiculous hot messes, I suppose one could argue that at least the filmmakers approached the material at ground level, matching the content delivery to its characters’ mode of conduct. Perhaps that’s admirable as a strategy, but it doesn’t make the resulting film any less of an incoherent boondoogle.
Here we have a case of ADD cinema, a movie so preoccupied with the next joke that it can barely remember the previous joke contradicted it.
Imagine recent raucous comedies like Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising or Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, except with the cutting social insight removed and only the fever-pitch jackhammer set pieces leftover. That’s Mike and Dave for 98 minutes, a spastic patchwork of zany concept caricatures that are sporadically funny in fits and starts but absolutely exhausting when strung together into a quasi-story and played at varying turns for cynical laughs or sincere emotion. Here we have a case of ADD cinema, a movie so preoccupied with the next joke that it can barely remember the previous joke contradicted it. Hard to identify with a comedy, however farcical, when it can’t even decide what it wants to be.
Purported to be “based on a true story” – a claim I can only hope is meant in the Fargo vein of “true stories” – Zac Efron and Adam Devine play Dave and Mike Stangle, who are portrayed in turns as either willfully reckless, impulsively angry, and/or mildly mentally challenged. Maybe some sort of toxic combination. Either way, their family views them as zeroes, they wreck every special occasion they attend, and now they’re tasked with finding “respectable” dates to accompany them to their sister’s wedding. Here begins the problem, even within just this conceptual set-up: are these guys misunderstood gems or aimless airheaded stooges? Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is always hedging between the two, like it can’t decide whether these guys are laughable or lovable. Even that combo could work, but for the movie’s tendency to play each moment to the hilt, taking scenarios and characterizations so far over the top that it can never rein them back in.
. . . it’s unfortunate that these actors must work overtime to create their own moments since the film leaves them stranded in shapeless disarray.
Mike and Dave aren’t the only victims of the film’s apparent lack of conviction. So, too, are the Wedding Dates, Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza), depicted as borderline sociopathic for the film’s first half, before settling into the mode of misunderstood hypersexual alcoholics. They see Mike and Dave on The Wendy Williams Show and then jump in front of a car to get their attention (hopefully “borderline sociopathic” makes more sense to you now).
The action moves to the wedding weekend, where an undefined sequence of random zany set pieces are piled on top of the other, indiscriminately, until the legitimacy of the entire enterprise threatens to fall to pieces, like comedy jenga. Mike and Dave are essentially destructive, the Wedding Dates compound said destruction, and without any particular subversive attitude or satiric verve, the on-screen hijinks amount to little more than comic bulldozing pitched at shouting level. As ever, the actors do what they can – not surprising, since these four are always demonstrably great. Kendrick in particular is a standout…again, not surprising. The screenplay offers Devine an opportunity for a to-the-back-row kind of energetic showcase, and he makes the most of it. Plaza has sort of been typed into this deadpan harlot role, and it takes all her talent to subtly tweak each variation from film to film. Efron is left flailing a bit by a script that doesn’t know how to channel his particular comic energy (odd since it was written by Neighbors scribes Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien), relegating him to the type of pretty-boy role you might’ve expected him to play a decade ago. He’s still good – they all are. But it’s unfortunate that these actors must work overtime to create their own moments since the film leaves them stranded in shapeless disarray.
A spastic patchwork of zany concept caricatures that are sporadically funny in fits and starts but absolutely exhausting when strung together into a quasi-story and played at varying turns for cynical laughs or sincere emotion.