I’m not really your typical moviegoer. Most of the time, I’ll decide on what movie I want to go see before the first trailer ever drops. Usually, reading a plot synopsis will be enough. Other times, the cast lineup will do it for me. If none of those do it for me, then trailers are the last resort. But the thing is – in my experience, if I’m already at that stage, very rarely will a trailer win me over. Typically, by the time I even look at a film’s trailer for the first time, I’ve already decided (by some form or another) whether or not I will even see said film. Trailers just aren’t the deciding factor for me anymore. Enter MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES, the first film in a very long time that I’ve decided to seeing solely based on its trailers.
Its plot is a simple one – brother Mike and Dave Stangle (played by Zac Efron and Adam Devine, respectively) are the life of the party at all of their family gatherings. In each situation, what starts out as a fun time slowly turns into a disaster of epic proportions, and the family has finally had enough; in one of the film’s most hilarious scenes, they stage an intervention at the brothers’ residence. Their father (played by Stephen Root) lays down the ultimatum – they are required to bring (respectable) dates to their sister Jeanie’s (played by Sugar Lyn Beard) wedding in Hawaii in order to keep them from “riling each other up.” When their normal attempts at finding dates fail, they turn to the abnormal – a Craigslist ad. Suddenly, the brothers become a trending topic, even earning a guest spot on THE WENDY WILLIAMS SHOW, where best friends Tatiana and Alice (played by Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick, respectively) first see the Stangle brothers. Realizing that they are not the “respectable” dates that they are looking for, they clean themselves up and set out to earn that free trip to Hawaii as Mike and Dave’s titular wedding dates.
I think it’s fair to say that many of MIKE AND DAVE’s best gags were already showcased in the trailers (see: the “push-pop”). I never like it when studios do this, as many times, the film has nothing left to offer, leaving a bad taste in the audience’s mouths. While that wasn’t completely the case here, it was apparent that about 90% of the film’s comedic arsenal was given away for free in the trailers.
As far as the performances, they were better than they had any right to be. It’s apparent that Zac Efron seems to have found his calling as a comedic actor, especially coming of the 1-2 punch of NEIGHBORS and NEIGHBORS 2. The chemistry between Efron and Adam Devine are, I can honestly say, what sold me the most about this film. They felt like real brothers, and for almost 2 hours while watching this film, I believed they were real brothers. Their shared screen presence just oozed with charisma, and their line deliveries were top notch. Jokes that seemed subpar, flat or childish or paper had me roaring with laughter just based on Efron and/or Devine’s delivery.
On the female side, I adored Anna Kendrick’s character and performance. In fact, I’d argue that she was the only one given any sort of decent character depth (which screwball comedies aren’t really known for, anyway), and she hit it out of the park. Her chemistry with Efron as well was something pure and believable, and it made the entire film better because of it. They didn’t look like a thrown-together couple (like Devine and Plaza did, unfortunately), which made their scenes together that much more entertaining. Aubrey Plaza was her usual deadpan self, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, her character is pretty unlikeable here, and becomes moreso as the plot progresses and her motivations are made clear. While not a bad performance, Plaza’s was certainly the weakest of the 4 leads.
But despite that, what I probably enjoyed the most about the film, performance-wise, was the obvious fun that you can tell the cast was having. One of the oldest complaints I’ve used regarding certain films is that they lack soul; you can tell that the actors just don’t care, and seem to be blatantly phoning their performances, all in the pursuit of a paycheck. In my opinion, when you can tell that the cast is having a ball making a film, it naturally radiates off the screen and affects the audience. If the cast is having a great time, it almost gives us permission to as well – it’s what gives the film its soul. I’d also argue that this could be the difference maker between what one would consider a subpar film and a good film – at least for me it is.
Be forewarned – some of the humor is a little bit out there, which is to be expected when you see an R-rated comedy. But even in that regard, I was a little shocked at some of the gags that made it onto the screen. To paraphrase a YouTube review I watched on this film, you almost feel like, “there’s no way they’re going to take this joke there” and then when it happens, you’re sitting there thinking, “yep, they totally went there.” I almost feel like at those points in the script, the filmmakers felt they needed something a little out there to justify an R-rating, and just went balls to the wall with it. It’s certainly commendable in that respect, but I feel that those gags added nothing to the overall story other than blatant shock value.
Should you see the film? Possibly, if you’re into raunchy R-rated comedies. It evokes the spirit of WEDDING CRASHERS, one of my personal favorite comedies – and the film is very self-aware of this, making little references to this throughout its narrative. Should you run out and see it now? Most definitely not – I would certainly wait for this to hit Netflix or Redbox before checking it out. While not the funniest film I’ve ever seen, at least this is one of those films that has a soul – it’s not just your typical dead and lifeless Hollywood production. The chemistry between the 4 leads and the obvious fun that they’re having turn this film from a sub-par WEDDING CRASHERS knockoff into a pretty decent comedy, and that’s something I can certainly get behind.