MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES
Director: Jake Szymanski
Cast: Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Sugar Lyn Beard, Sam Richardson, Alice Wetterlund, Stephen Root, Stephanie Faracy
MPAA Rating: (for crude sexual content, language throughout, drug use and some graphic nudity)
Running Time: 1:38
Release Date: 7/8/16
Review by Mark Dujsik | July 7, 2016
Relatively speaking, the two guys at the center of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates aren't too bad. This also means they aren't good, but since the movie is "inspired by the lives" of two actual people, it might be worth starting with the slightly more positive side of the descriptive coin. What's most informative is that the fictional versions of Dave and Mike Stangle wear out their welcome well before the 98-minute telling of the "true story" of how they became momentarily famous is complete. The movie proclaims that it's "sort of" true. "Sort of" is also a generous way to frame the fame of two guys whose most significant accomplishment is posting an ad on the internet.
Here's some background for those who (perhaps should be thankful that they) do not know it: A few years ago, the Stangle brothers needed wedding dates for a cousin's wedding (The cousin, tellingly, made the demand to prevent the brothers from, using the cousin's word, "harassing" women at the reception), so they posted a personal ad on a website. The advertisement went viral, and the brothers ended up doing a few national morning news shows as a result.
This is not, as you can tell, a particularly interesting story. Indeed, the screenplay by Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O'Brien breezes through the interview process in a montage of prospective candidates. Each pair of interviewees, by the way, is some sort of blatant stereotype—a couple of prostitutes and a good number of "crazy" women.
The Dave (Zac Efron) and Mike (Adam Devine) of the movie want "nice girls" to bring with them to their sister Jeanie's (Sugar Lyn Beard) wedding in Hawaii. They're the kind of guys who refer to women in their 20s and 30s as "girls." They also seem to be the kind of guys who would constantly complain that none of the girls they have met and/or dated has ever been "nice." Surely, it's the girls' fault, and it clearly has nothing to do with their own behavior or way of thinking. There are two women who are exceptions that prove the rule: their mother (Stephanie Faracy), whom the brothers treat with just enough respect (maybe because she isn't as strict as their fed-up father, played by Stephen Root), and their sister, whom Dave and Mike essentially worship as the epitome of female innocence (Their perception of her goes far beyond that of protective older brothers and into a fairly creepy realm).
To be fair, the movie recognizes these qualities in the brothers, even as that montage of potential wedding dates seems to take great pains to confirm their perspective. The personalities of the brothers—especially Mike, who overreacts to even the most minor of obstacles, seeing anything that doesn't go his way as a personal slight—grow tiresome quickly.
Enter Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza). They see Dave and Mike on TV, and wanting a vacation, the women come up with a plan to fake being the "nice girls" they aren't. They drink, use drugs, party all night, and spend the day in their pajamas. Alice has been traumatized by being left at the altar on her wedding day, making her nearly catatonic upon any memory of the day, and Tatiana just likes to have fun (Both characters, then, are stereotypes themselves—just ones with more screen time). By pretending to be people they aren't, the duo quickly wins over the brothers.
The central joke is that the two women are as capable of questionable behavior as the brothers, meaning there's a certain level of irony to the way the wedding celebration inevitably falls apart. It's partly Alice, who arranges a special massage for Jeanie, and Tatiana, who catches the eye of the brothers' bisexual cousin Terry (Alice Wetterlund), who are to blame, but it takes a while for the guys to realize that their own reactions are mostly at fault. The movie never goes so far as to criticize Dave and Mike's misguided expectations for others, because it would rather us feel bad for them on account of their low expectations for themselves (Mike is struggling to keep his tequila business running, and Dave fears he'll let down his brother if he follows his dream of becoming an artist).
That's pushing our sympathy for these guys a bit too far. As for Alice and Tatiana, their redemption in the movie's eyes comes when they finally allow Dave and Mike to have a chance at something more than the original arrangement. The movie works better when it lets the supporting characters have some fun, if only because it gives us a break from the central quartet. It also helps that the likes of Wetterlund, Root, Sam Richardson (as Jeanie's timid fiancé), and especially Beard are smart enough to avoid the temptation of overplaying their roles.
This turns out to be one of those movies in which one suspects that a lot of the jokes are improvised by the actors—only to have those suspicions confirmed by way of outtakes during the closing credits. The performers are adept enough to make it work occasionally, but Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates simply doesn't offer them characters who are worthy of those efforts.
Copyright © 2016 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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