Movie Review: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
By Ben Gruchow
July 19, 2016
At the very least, we can express gratitude to director Jake Szymanski and writers Andrew Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, for so thoroughly investing themselves in a quaint old star-driven pitch and narrative. This may not sound all that special, and we did indeed just come out of a month that offered more than its share of quaint old star-driven narratives, but let us not take for granted the pleasure of seeing a film that is conspicuously created for and facilitated by the chemistry of the main cast.
And this is how we come by Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, a movie that has no reason to exist except for the ability to see the immeasurable talents of Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick intermix with the measurable talents of Zac Efron and Adam DeVine. Other cast members appear on the periphery, but this is every bit an edifice built on the presence of these four. Like the Miss Congeniality movies from the early ’00s, the success of the thing is predicated on the onscreen participants turning bland and functional writing into something approximating successful broad comedy based on their ability to invest it with the right timing and expression. And in both cases, it winks out of relevant existence the moment you extract or replace the lead actor(s) and actress(es).
Unambiguously in the new film’s corner is the fact that this is the second time we've seen Efron and Plaza together in the same film this year, after January’s Dirty Grandpa, and praise be to every higher being in existence that this is light-years better as comedy and story than that dumpster fire of cinema. The titular characters here are brothers (DeVine and Efron, respectively) who operate an wholesale-liquor business and don't have much else to their name; their shared apartment looks not like the dwelling of late-twentysomethings in business but very recent college grads who haven't yet figured out what their place in the world is.
This turns out to be a significant story element when their sister Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard) and parents (Stephen Root and Stephanie Faracy) direct them to recruit dates for Jeanie’s upcoming wedding. The brothers being emotionally high-temperature singles, this results in an ad calling for two women to accompany them to Hawaii (there is a humorous exchange where they run through most of the dating apps that end with some contraction of words ending in ‘er’, only to finally settle on Craigslist).
There is a scene in this stretch of the film that sets us up more or less perfectly for what to expect as far as the screenplay’s reach and its grasp. A couple of female coworkers in an office are perusing the woefully unpolished Craigslist ad, and their male coworker elbows his way in; he wants a trip to Hawaii, too. The brothers are both straight, he's told. So what? That's not a deal breaker. And then we cut to the scene where the brothers interview him, and he's in shamefully poor drag, playing the part of a woman when nobody with the most rudimentary observational skills would fail to see through it.