There are two warning signs for lazy writing in comedy: weddings and exotic locations. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates has both. Jake Szymanski’s debut feature takes a talented cast and runs them through the same routine of tricks we’ve seen before, begging the question: did Szymanski take a page out of his film’s book and trick Fox for a trip to Hawaii?
Adam Devine (Pitch Perfect) and Zac Efron (Neighbors) star as Mike and Dave Stangle, two lifelong bachelors with a reputation for ruining family parties with their shenanigans. So when their sister Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard, 50/50) announces she’s getting married, their father (Stephen Root, Justified) insists they bring wedding dates to make sure they don’t rile each other up. To find their dates, Mike and Dave write a Craigslist ad that goes viral, catching the eye of Alice (Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza, Parks and Rec), who see Mike and Dave as their free ticket to Hawaii.
Once on the island, the film unfolds the way you might expect. The brothers quickly discover that these girls aren’t the nice, wholesome ladies they signed up for. Tatiana is a foul mouthed, egocentric opportunist while Alice has a bevy of substance abuse problems stemming from the time she got left at the alter. The vacation quickly spirals out of control as the couples discover things about each other and themselves, spelling disaster for Jeanie’s wedding.
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates opens with the words “Based on a True Story”, but it should really open with “Based on Movies You’ve Seen Before”. The film is built upon a real life Craigslist ad that blew up online in 2013, but that’s where its connection to reality ends and where its reliance on rom-com tropes begins. It’s not hard to imagine this film being pitched as Forgetting Sarah Marshall meets Wedding Crashers, and I suppose in a way, it is. There are certainly jokes from those films in this one.
The film, penned by Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien (Neighbors) feels composed almost entirely of set pieces pulled from other movies. Characters go on drug-addled rampages and make accidental confessions, secrets are revealed when microphones are left on, people walk in on things they’re not meant to see, it’s all comedic beats we’ve seen before. Some of the set pieces are executed well, it always feels like the cast is executing old favorites, as opposed to breaking new ground. Comedy is about surprise, and when you know all the jokes, nothing is that shocking.
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is at its best when it indulges its central premise: their dates are total disasters. Most comedies are predicated on their characters being flawed, but not flawed enough to not be perfect for one another. Szymanski crafts the film’s best moments when he allows his characters to be self-centered, opportunistic nightmares. Plaza’s Tatiana in particular has a moral compass that points anyway but north and steals some of the films best scenes. Its refreshing to see a character lie and abuse drugs and begrudgingly use her sexuality for favors, like back stage passes to Rihanna. Unfortunately at some point the film decides it needs to wrap itself into a nice packages and all the grit gets smoothed over into a more palatable, boring package.
The cast turns in good performances, although Zac Efron’s comedic chops can’t quite hack it with Devine, Plaza and Kendrick. The two couples suffer from a painful lack of chemistry that actually works until the film’s final act. The boys and the girls do most of their best work when paired with one another and have no problem chewing up the scenery, which is shockingly bland for Hawaii. Matthew Clark’s photography takes little advantage of Hawaii’s natural beauty. Although the fault probably lies more with the script that takes place primarily in restaurants, spas, and hotels rooms, than it does with Clark’s camerawork.
Verdict: 2 out of 5
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is a palatable piece of fluff that dissipates almost entirely by the time its 98 minutes are gone. I’m sure that within a month I will have forgotten I saw this movie; there’s certainly nothing terribly memorable to hold onto, but if the summer heat is sweltering enough to drive you to a theatre, there are worse ways to spend your time. But if you’d rather save your money, stay home and rent a comedy from the last year or two, because this film is only delivering more of the same.