You already know the template for a movie like Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Two rowdy brothers get bullied into bringing nice-girl dates to their sister’s wedding in Hawaii. (“You want us to bring dates to a wedding? Is that allowed?”) Except the girls only pretended to be nice to get a free vacation, and all hell breaks loose. Throw in some ecstasy and penis jokes, and you’ve got yourself a comedy.
Traditionally, you’d also be waiting for the other shoe to drop — for Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) to slowly fall for their dates, only to have everything messed up once the lie comes to light. Then cue the tearful apologies at the last minute and the happily ever afters. Except Mike and Dave mercifully gives a big middle finger to the rom-com formula and instead chooses to focus on characters’ relationships with friends and themselves.
Mike and Dave are brothers who sell liquor together and have no interest in ever being apart. Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) are childhood best friends and such hot messes that they get fired from their jobs as waitresses after repeatedly turning up drunk.
The movie throws a lot at the wall, and only some of it sticks. Within the first five minutes of the movie, Mike and Dave’s dad prophetically remarks, “This shtick was cute for a while, but it’s gotten stale.” Jokes that are funny for a second get dragged out for eternity, and the physical comedy isn’t half as effective as director Jake Szymanski thinks it is.
What truly sells the film is the great back and forth between Efron and Devine (and, to a lesser extent, Plaza and Kendrick). Outtakes during the credits give the impression that a lot was improvised, and some jokes are played so off-the-cuff that it simply feels like watching two very funny brothers clown around.
The script is smart to let all four characters be weird without judgment. They’re dumb, odd, messy people, and when it comes time for them to grow up a little bit, the film doesn’t try to change them. “I don’t want us to stop being us, but I think occasionally we should think about how other people feel,” Tatiana tells Alice. Be less selfish, not less weird.
The whole thing is undeniably sloppy and never quite as funny as it could be. But Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates refuses to be jammed into the mold, and that’s worth something.
Cast: Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza.
Director: Jake Szymanski.
Screenwriters: Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien.
A 20th Century Fox release. Running time: 98 minutes. Vulgar language, nudity, crude sexual content, drug use. Playing at area theaters.