Dir: Jake Szymanski
Starring: Zac Efron, Aubrey Plaza, Anna Kendrick, Adam Devine
Welcome to the world of the Stangle brothers. The fun-loving Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) believe that they are the life of the party. In fact they are the death of the party – every family event so far has been spoiled by their bizarre and often destructive antics and the Stangle parents have had enough. Determined not to endure another disaster during the Hawaii destination wedding of their youngest daughter Jeanie, the parents force an ultimatum – either Mike and Dave find respectable dates or don’t turn up to the ceremony at all (Sione’s Wedding anyone?) After posting an advertisement on Craigslist, the plight of the brothers goes viral and attracts the attention of two slackers Tatiana (Plaza) and Alice (Kendrick) who in turn pretend to be respectable women so to get a free vacation. As is to be expected they end up being quite the match for Mike and Dave.
This is Jake Szymanski’s first feature film release, having previously directed a TV movie, an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and several shorts for the website Funny or Die. It is an acceptable outing for a first time director, however I was far from won over by the final product.
Casting wise, it is Aubrey Plaza especially who shines, with Anna Kendrick coming up a close second as two ditzy but loutish, foul-mouthed women who just do not give a fuck. For Zac Efron, he seems to be is distancing himself from his High School Musical days by carving a niche out as a comedic actor and I did prefer his acting over Adam Devine, who overacts to a large degree and lacks the more subtle comedic timing of Efron.
At face value this is supposed to be yet another dumb, fun, comedy but there was a level of vapidity to it that made it hard to truly engage with it. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates relies on crude humour that starts out funny but wears thin a little too quickly. It is obvious that the film is trying hard to be risqué and sometimes it tries a little too hard, to the point where things get a little creepy. At the risk of being accused of being a social justice warrior or one of the PC police there were a number of scenes that just left me feeling a little uncomfortable and even somewhat offended.
Both Tatiana and Alice are the kind of girls who constantly drink, smoke weed and enjoy watching hardcore porn. On the one hand I liked that they were unabashedly vulgar and that they could hold their own against the men of the film. My favourite line – “Fucking suck my clit!” said by Tatiana before she makes a truly sick jump on a quad bike over a hill is both funny and feels real to how a lot of women her age actually talk these days. On the other hand it is a tough line to navigate between them being honest and hilarious or buying into a kind of modern day “cool girl” stereotype. The concept of the “cool girl” comes from Gillian Flynn’s book Gone Girl¸ which makes a great case for another female stereotype of a girl who seems like modern liberated women (they laugh at crude jokes, love rough sex and dildos, don’t nag or get overly emotional yet still somehow maintain killer bodies) but actually represent another romanticised male fantasy of a so called “empowered” woman – “cool” but still an unrealistic ideal that no woman can truly live up to. Tatiana and Alice sometimes seem just like frat guys with vaginas and tiny waists, not actual women.
Yet another thing I found offensive came with the character of Terry (played by Alice Wetterlund), the lesbian/bisexual cousin of the brothers and specifically Mike’s nemesis. In one scenario (potential spoiler alert) she manages to effectively blackmail Tatiana into give her a little finger action down below in exchange for Rihanna backstage concert tickets. This scene elicited a lot of laughs from the audience, but I could not help thinking that if the Terry’s gender had been male then the scene would have just come off as offensive (a male asking for blowjobs in exchange for concert tickets is not funny, just slimy as fuck). I found this whole creepy predator lesbian thing just plain icky.
In the end the movie’s biggest downfall is its plot. The story ends up being weak and incredibly aimless, with a half-hearted attempt at a “hugging and learning” ending that just comes off as forced. There is a difference between the excitement of not quite knowing what will be next and the bewilderment of not quite knowing what this is all supposed to be leading to and throughout Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates I mostly felt bewilderment. There are many funny parts in the film but the overall product is lacklustre and does not quite measure up to being a good film.