Director: Jake Szymanski
Cast: Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick, Adam Devine, Aubrey Plaza, Stephen Root
Release Date: July 8th, 2016
The two title characters in the new comedy Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates are brothers. They are smarmy, slovenly and sarcastic brothers who don’t regularly bring dates to wedding (they prefer meeting women there). The new film about this duo pits them against two women who are almost as selfish and repulsive as they are and the results are mixed, to say the least.
Zac Efron and Adam Levine play Dave and Mike Stangle, two real-life brothers. As the text notes at the beginning of the comedy, this is “based on a true story…sort of.” The Stangle brothers do exist and did post a note on Craigslist looking for dates (because their family wanted these unruly boys to bring guests to the ceremony) but beyond that, much of the rest of the story is fictionalized.
Screenwriters Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien took the concept and ran with it.
In the feature, the Stangle brothers post their ad and are inundated with responses. Two carefree women — who are similar to the Stangle brothers in many ways — see the ad and want to be the Stangle wedding dates. Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) know that if they’re chosen, the Stangle brothers will pay for their trip to Hawaii (free vacation!) to witness the nuptials.
The Stangle brothers choose Alice and Tatiana as their dates and much of the fun derives from their slow realization that the two women aren’t as respectable as they claim. Tatiana’s personality quickly becomes clear but it’s Alice’s character that really stands out. Kendrick, who has played more serious characters in projects like Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect, gets to embrace her comedic side here.
Her Alice is a loveable but uncouth mess. The character was recently left at the altar so Kendrick plays the character as a woman on the edge– moments away from exploding at the mere mention of weddings. To make it even worse, the character can’t lie well (She tells Dave that her ex-boyfriend “died of cancer and AIDs”). Of the four main leads here, Kendrick is the real standout in part because her character isn’t meant to be as reckless or as obnoxious as the other three.
To be sure, there are plenty of strong one-liners here and Efron, Levine and Plaza do solid work and a few of the bits do stand out.
For every one line that works though, there are five or six that fall apart. Sequences involving a sexual massage and Tatiana’s relationship with the brothers’ lesbian cousin Terry (Alice Wetterlund) don’t work half as well as the writers think they do.
Beneath some of these silly subplots, there’s a decent story here and there’s a lot of fun to be had watching these outlandish men meet their match in their equally-outlandish dates but the feature seldom truly embraces that.
Instead, director Jake Szymanski — who previously helmed the more inventive 7 Days in Hell TV Movie — settles for something far less interesting here. Like other crass comedies like this, the director shows how obnoxious and outlandish his characters can be only to help them find redemption in the end. For the majority of the film’s running time, these characters are mean-spirited and shallow but for five minutes at the end, they start developing real feelings. It’s a lazy ending to a film that could’ve been so more enjoyable.
Kendrick does her part here — elevating the proceedings in each scene — but that’s not enough to save this comedy.
Review by: John Hanlon