In the inevitably inebriated, sometimes stoned, reliably raw and occasionally bodily-fluid-enhanced annals of gross-out wedding comedies (a list arguably topped by The Hangover, Bridesmaids and Wedding Crashers), Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates rates medium on the grossness scale (an all-body, pre-marital naked-Indian-guru-administered massage for the bride with a happy ending, anyone?) and pretty high in crude talk. But it’s kind of a dud when it comes to endurance and imaginative moves. The amusing premise of naughty-boy brothers who troll online for dates to their sister’s Hawaiian nuptials, only to end up with two babes far more foul than they, delivers enough raunch to satisfy its intended good-times-seeking audience. Still, the repetitive humor is frat boy-level boorish rather than cosmically anarchic, suggesting a quick box-office cash-in instead of a big long haul for Fox in a summer thus far very short on comedy.
Loosely based on the antics of real-life brothers Mike and Dave Stangle, whose adventures advertising for dates on Craigslist led to TV appearances and a book, this frantic, almost desperately vulgar farce panders to its intended audience by following the simple formula of making sure nearly every sentence features three or four dirty words rather than one or two. For a while, the overkill is somewhat amusing, especially when the gals show up and outdo the guys. But when this is basically the only comic stratagem, you’re bound to hit the wall sooner rather than later.
Girls can be grosser than guys.
Having ruined previous family events with their antics (helpfully glimpsed in some raucous home videos), Mike (Adam Devine, of Workaholics, Modern Family and the two Pitch Perfect features) and Dave (Zac Efron) are commanded by their elders to get actual dates to accompany them to the upcoming wedding of their squeaky-voiced sister Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard).
Despite their ad going viral and attracting 6,000 responses, the boys end up with two young ladies of genuinely bottomless vulgarity, classlessness and lack of self-esteem. However, the almost permanently sloshed Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) can still recognize a gravy train when they see one and they manage to climb on board without, for once, getting prone even before the double “date” is underway.
“Being a nice girl is hard,” complains Alice, who’s still reeling after having been jilted at her wedding. But she and born hard-ass Tatiana have agreed not to capitulate before Jeanie’s wedding, so you can just about feel screenwriters Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien (former Judd Apatow cohorts, best known for the two Neighbors features) scouring around trying to figure out what their boys and girls can do to create mayhem without doing the nasty.
The foursome’s first outing is a wild ATV ride across the Hawaiian landscape where the dinosaurs first appeared in the original Jurassic Park, except there are no reptiles this time, only heedless nutjobs on wheels. Then comes Jeanie’s deluxe massage, followed by a provocative steam room encounter in which Mike and Dave’s butch cousin Terry (Alice Wetterlund, very good) takes great pleasure in getting somewhere with Tatiana before Mike does.
But what fizz there is goes flat after about an hour, as TV comedy director Jake Szymanski, on his debut feature, desperately tries to keep a few laughs coming while navigating toward a resolution without getting too pat or sappy. A thankless task it was.
Although both the guys are very vigorously vulgar, Efron has little choice but to play the straight man to Devine’s hyperactive stooge; the latter never lets up with his shameless gall, giving Jerry Lewis a run for his money when it comes to making faces. Kendrick and Plaza are somewhat better company, if only because their characters’ extremism is initially more surprising and both have more cards to play as performers.
The fancy resort settings notwithstanding, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates has a very cheap look and it doesn’t take long to realize that, if Hawaii is to be the cinematic vacation destination, seeing Forgetting Sarah Marshall again would have provided a far better time.
Production: Chernin Entertainment
Cast: Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick, Adam Devine, Aubrey Plaza, Stephen Root, Sam Richardson, Sugar Lyn Beard, Eugene Cordero, Lavell Crawford, Stephanie Faracy, Mary Holland, Marc Maron, Kumail Nanjiani, Bob Turton, Alice Wetterlund
Director: Jake Szymanski
Screenwriters: Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien; inspired by the life stories of Mike Stangle and Dave Stangle
Producers: Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Jonathan Levine
Executive producers: David Ready, Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Nan Morales
Director of photography: Matthew Clark
Production designer: Tyler Robinson
Costume designer: Debra McGuire
Editors: Jonathan Schwartz, Lee Haxall
Music: Jeff Cardoni
Casting: Sheila Jaffe, Jennifer Euston
Rated R, 98 minutes