Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)
Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Adam DeVine, Zac Effron. Directed by Jake Szymanski.
If you can’t disconnect your brain and just enjoy four good actors being goofy and stupid, there’s really no way to appreciate a film like Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, unless, like me, you are a deep admirer of the actors themselves. My fan-love for Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza is so deep that it almost doesn’t matter what the film is, and I know for certain that many people feel this way about Zac Efron. A movie like this isn’t so much a story as a witness to an execution of comedic over-the-top acting chops, if there is such a thing, and if you can appreciate Anna Kendrick sobbing her poor young heart out while George Clooney awkwardly pretends to sympathize in an Oscar-nominated performance in Up in the Air, why not go along in the opposite direction as she shares a bunch of MDMA with the bride the night before a wedding, and then takes her clothes off so she can cavort with a corral of hotel-owned horses she decides to set free?
Adam DeVine and Zac Effron are Mike and Dave, two idiot brothers whose younger sister is about to be wed. They’re warned by their family—the bride included—that they are expected to have dates for this wedding, because they have a history of coming to family events stag, and then embarrassing everyone with life-endangering stunts and guest-insulting flirtation. The family hopes that dates will keep the young men in line. Because they’re idiot horndogs, at first they resist, but because they love their sister (nearly as much as they appear to love each other), they acquiesce, putting an ad on Craigslist, searching for dates to the Hawaii wedding.
The Hawaii part of the deal inspires a lot of responses, as well as an appearance on The Wendy Williams Show where Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) and Alice (Anna Kendrick) see them. The ladies are having problems. Alice, recently abandoned at the altar, repeatedly shows up for her waitressing job drunk. Tatiana, her best friend, joins Anna in her drunkenness, and they are both fired. A trip to Hawaii could help them reset their lives, so they make up fake identities, Tatiana declaring she’s a teacher, and Alice claiming to be a hedge-fund manager. Just the sort of nice girls Mike and Dave know will please their family.
All that setup seems unnecessary for a pretty thin story, but I suspect it serves to loosen a viewer’s brain, a kind of focused stretching before a basketball game. First, get to like the characters, understanding that they’re basically nice people, if stupid and misguided. Then, get used to the possibility that their likeable stupidity means they are about to do some really stupid, unbelievable stuff for the sole purpose of making you laugh, or (alternately) be reminded that Kendrick and Plaza are super cute, and that Effron is a hunk. You paid for the rental; you might as well stick around for that.
This is the second Kendrick-Plaza movie and the third Kendrick-DeVine movie, and these are good team-ups, and this is where the film mostly works, because goodness knows there aren’t a lot of genuine laughs. The hope that there might be some singing, with three of the four principals starring in hugely successful musical projects, might be another appeal, and some of that is delivered as well. There’s a happy pleasure in seeing this young talent get a little crazy and have fun, and if one can forgive the characters for promising more than they deliver, shallowly motivated by a trip to Hawaii, one can certainly excuse the actors for doing the same thing.
PS: This is not Pitch Perfect or High School Musical. Screen it before you watch it with your kids.