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Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates – Review


Release Date: 10 August 2016
Director: Jake Szymanski
Writer: Andrew Jay Cohen - Brendan O’Brien [Screenplay]
Cast: Zac Efron - Adam Devine - Anna Kendrick - Aubrey Plaza - Sugar Lyn Beard - Sam Richardson - Alice Wetterlund



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Posted August 10, 2016 by

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Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Review:

Alice Wetterlund aces ‘Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates’, a broad, lumpen comedy that is straight-jacketed by its premise and commitment to frequent swearing and uninspired slapstick. She plays Cousin Terry, a horny lesbian who beelines for Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) at a Hawaiian beach hotel, and attempts to arouse her with the prospect of Rihanna tickets. Plaza, whose deadened dangerous stare ordinarily belies a sarcastic interior, exudes an incapability of experiencing sexual pleasure. For her, a mic drop is preferable. She is lost in the movie – a boat without an anchor.

That I’ve singled out Wetterlund, best known for the TV show ‘Silicon Valley’, should set off alarm bells. The film isn’t funny. I was primed for laughter by the 20th Century Fox logo, then the TSG logo, then the Chernin Entertainment logo – wait, no, now we have Mike (Adam Devine) attempting to sell a brand of rum to a bar owner and showing he can interest ‘customer’ Dave (Zac Efron) in it. The scene is all about Efron affecting an Australian accent (strictly lesser Hemsworth) and it peters out. The bar owner orders several cases and you ask ‘why?’ Later Efron will imitate a Jamaican and Liam Neeson and the question resurfaces.

Directed by Jake Szymanski, whose previous credit is the Andy Samberg-Kit Harrington tennis comedy, ‘Seven Days in Hell’, and written by Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, it aims to get laughs from the disruptive behaviour of Alice (Anna Kendrick) and best pal Tatiana. They are two waitresses who lose their jobs when Alice, emotionally bruised from being dumped at the altar, turns up drunk for work. Alice is lost to drink and drugs – she’s one Janis short of an unanswered phone call in a hotel room. Yet she is empowered. Her heartbreak gives her daring and shamelessness. She throws herself at Dave, the ‘one on the left’ that everyone likes.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is loosely based on the real life Stangle brothers who advertised for dates on Craigslist (a popular website normally used for furniture) to accompany them to their sister’s wedding. Without female company, they behave in a boorish, uncontrolled way. Alice and Tatiana sense a free holiday to Hawaii and fake vulnerability. The ‘joke’ is that once they are there, it is the women who behave semi-badly. They don’t want to sleep with their hosts (quite right); they just want to have fun.

At least part of the problem is that Zac Efron isn’t so much playing a character as allowing himself to be objectified. The filmmakers thought: if Channing Tatum can do it (in the ‘Jump Street’ movies) then any handsome leading man can. Dave’s only ‘motivation’ was that he was saved from bullying by his more irresponsible brother. I think Dave was supposed to be portrayed as a dumb beefcake, albeit one who can draw; Dave turns drink bottles into cartoon characters – it isn’t charming, really. But Efron doesn’t do dumb. He’s in on the joke, like a college-educated Chippendale.

As for Devine, the kid can improvise but he doesn’t have a second gear. Most of the time, you watch the cast horsing around without thinking of them as characters with problems resolved through comedy. It is depressing.

In its favour, the film presents a mixed race marriage and lesbianism in a matter-of-fact manner – the ballsy Terry with ‘Chris Rock for a neighbour’ can stand up for herself. Drug humour is harder to pull off – it wasn’t that easy in Cheech and Chong’s day (look them up). At its worst, the film is irresponsible.

I quite liked the use of the locations last seen in ‘Jurassic Park’, a cue for the cast to recite lines, but not ‘life will find a way’ – there’s not much real life in this film – and do dinosaur hissing. Most of the time, the slapstick seems strained and, if truth be told, barely passes for physical comedy. In the final scene, the cast members perform a musical number and flog a dead animal (metaphorically speaking) before your eyes.

The emphasis on improvisation – and swearing – owes something to the films of Judd Apatow. But however outrageous his films are, the comedy stems from something real: awkwardness in virginity, fear of being parents, inability to adjust to middle age or the difficulty of scheduling a wedding. There is only thing ‘real’ here is side-stepped; the film doesn’t really address Alice’s humiliation and low self-esteem.

So what do ‘Mike and Dave Need’? A firm hand, a sense of purpose and better jokes.


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Larry Oliver
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