There was part of me that thought the 21st century was going to be transformative for comedy. After a rather heavy number of teen comedies inspired by “She’s All That” and “American Pie,” audiences started to see a nice stretch of hilarious, irreverent funny films like “Old School,” “The Hangover” and “Wedding Crashers.” They featured well-intentioned sophomoric schlubs getting into all sorts of shenanigans, requiring a healthy dose of F-bombs and some gags that pushed the boundaries of good taste.
“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” manages to accomplish most of its pedestrian goals. It’s a comedy that qualifies as entertaining but doesn’t ever find its groove while mashing together some pretty traditional tropes.
Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) are two brothers dealing with perpetual manchild syndrome. They run a liquor business and party hard—so hard in fact that they tend to ruin any and every family function. This is of great concern to their family, as their younger sister, Jeannie, is preparing for her destination wedding in Hawaii. Mike and Dave’s dad believe the key to breaking the perpetual cycle of destruction is to get his bumbling boys to bring dates.
Enter Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatyana (Aubrey Plaza): two party girls trying to break a string of bad luck. After seeing Mike and Dave on TV, pitching the idea of a free trip to Hawaii for two “good girls,” they orchestrate a plan to become the only two options. They sell themselves as nice girls, but these two are a pile of kindling always looking for a match. The wedding and everyone involved soon fall victim to Alice and Tatyana’s hard partying. Ironically, the girls Mike and Dave bring to help prevent a disaster actually cause it. Who could have seen that coming?
There are small attempts at building characters. Alice is getting over being left at the altar. The wedding begins to trigger matrimonial PTSD, and the only way she knows how to deal with it involves an open bar and a healthy dose of MDMA. Tatyana is less burdened with emotional baggage but is Alice’s primary enabler. Mike needs to grow up, and Dave needs to go draw a comic book about liquor superheroes or something utterly forgettable.
“Mike and Dave” is an interesting piece of work. It’s amusing but rarely laugh-out-loud funny. The film lacks a signature gag or super funny moment audiences will remember after leaving the theater. It features some well-developed and ultimately redeemable characters. The main problem is too much of the film’s laughs are reliant on Adam Devine, who basically has one gag: acting like a pouty 5-year-old in the body of a grown man. It’s funny in small doses, but he lets loose like a rabid dog throughout the movie and tears through scenes in the unfunniest of ways, like a tornado of teeth and bugging eyes leaving nothing but blank expressions in its wake.
The word “forced” comes to mind a lot when watching the film. Comedy certainly isn’t easy, but it shouldn’t be this hard. Anna Kendrick is likable enough but struggles to be the awkward Alice. I love Aubrey Plaza, but her “Jersey Shore”-inspired gangsta lean is like listening to Hodor making sweet love to a porcupine.
Only Zac Efron comes out fairly unscathed, mainly because he’s asked to do nothing more than play the exact same character he’s played in all three comedies he has starred in this year. Seriously, when did I miss the memo that Zac Efron was the go-to straight man for every comedy in 2016? Efron is likable and charming enough, but it’s July and I already had to deal with three comedies starring Zac Efron. Do I really need a Zac Efron fix every 60 days? Is Hollywood that desperate for good looking men in their 20s that they can’t find one other guy to cast in a role like this and mix it up?
“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” isn’t a bad movie, but it isn’t really a good one either. For the amount of energy being spent on screen, I expected something far funnier. Even the traditional bloopers and outtakes reel that play beside the credits painfully was average. Here’s a tip: If you can’t find two minutes of hilarious outtakes in your comedy, the other 90 minutes might not be so hot either.