Movie Review: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
By Ben Gruchow
July 19, 2016
We deflate a little bit in our seats. The stronger joke, and the funnier one, would have just been to have the man approach them directly, with the same blasé attitude he displayed earlier. The scene does eventually get to this point, but not comfortably; having shot itself in the foot with the lazily-contrived setup for the interview scene, it then slips on a banana peel and faceplants by having the brothers be legitimately fooled by the disguise, as evidenced by their reaction when the wig comes off. Does anyone really consider this kind of thing funny or daring anymore?
Our spirits lift a little when we finally get to spend some screen time with Alice and Tatiana, played by Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza as cocktail waitresses every bit as developmentally arrested as Mike and Dave. Kendrick has a naturally subversive screen presence that always gives the impression that she can see something nobody else can, including the audience; Plaza can sell straight-faced comic misanthropy in her sleep, as anyone who's seen Parks and Recreation can attest. These are emotive, funny actresses, and if our first few scenes with them reveal that they're mostly going to be conniving punchlines for alcoholism…well, at least the material will be in the hands of professionals.
In their hands it is, and from the moment all of them are on screen together, something in the material of the movie clicks at least moderately, and we’re able to entertain the screenplay’s many contrivances by the sheer virtue of how likable the cast makes relatively unsympathetic characters. And unsympathetic they are; Alice is the only one with much of a shred of self-awareness, and even she is beholden to story and character developments that do yeoman’s work in attempting to undermine any identification with her that we might have.
It's actually pretty telling how relatively better the movie is in the presence of its female characters in general, without Mike and Dave around to play off of each other’s escalating emotional amperage. In the few moments we have alone with Alice, she gives indications toward unexplored layers of character that at least explain why she's merely the most sympathetic of an unsympathetic lot. And Alice Wetterlund, tasked with an impossible character in the bisexual, power-mad cousin Terry, operates with a kind of relentless vigor that brings every scene she's in to some kind of unpredictable life.
You know, more or less, what you're getting here. It's faint praise when the main pluses of a movie are that the filmmakers successfully mold it into the functional shape of cinema on a technical level (the Hawaiian sets and locations look truly lovely, the mechanics of which likely don't extend beyond rolling the camera and setting focus appropriately…but still, it's unabashed praise and it's well-deserved), and of how close the charismatic main actors come to constructing an enjoyable time out of such a standard and uninspired blueprint.