A film review by Craig J. Koban July 15, 2016




2016, R, 98 mins.


Zac Efron as Dave Stangle  /  Adam DeVine as Mike Stangle  /  Anna Kendrick as Alice  /  Aubrey Plaza as Tatiana  /  Sugar Lyn Beard as Jeanie Stangle  /  Kumail Nanjiani as Keanu

Directed by Jake Szymanski  /  Written by Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O'Brien

MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES is one of the most mind numbingly obnoxious comedies that I’ve seen in an awfully long time.  The fact that it’s loosely based on a true story makes it all the more shameful.  

Inspired by the tale of Mike and Dave Stangle, two Albany, New York men that ended up putting an ad on Craigslist looking for respectable wedding dates (they parlayed this stunt into book and film rights deals), the movie rarely makes a claim for its very existence, other than to bombard viewers with witless, lifeless, ill timed, and insipidly laugh-free sitcom worthy comedic contrivances for 90-plus minutes.  

Actually, MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES is an insult to witless, lifeless, ill timed and insipidly laugh-free TV sitcoms. 

One of the cardinal blunders that this “comedy” makes is that it oh-so-frequently mistakes volume and vulgarity for hilarity.  I’m no prude.  Some of my favorite big screen comedies of all time wallowed in wanton raunchiness.  Yet, the characters in MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES methodically hammer home telegraphed punch lines by boisterously screaming and yelling in hyperactive fits, somehow pathetically thinking that it comes off rather amusingly.  Comedy requires pacing, nuance, and most importantly, tactful modulation.  The pratfalls and profanity-laced sight gags here have energy, yes, but there’s nothing inherently in them lurking beneath the surface.  The performers bellow out their dialogue exchanges like petulant nine-year-old boys that haven’t achieved puberty yet, and the shrillness of this overall approach gets tiring very, very soon.  It’s simply not funny.  It’s annoying.  There’s no construction of well earned laughs here, just random shouting matches between characters that use f-bombs and multiple variations of them to score cheap laughs.  This film is hyper-caffeinated to the point of being headache inducing. 



If this film were not, as mentioned, based on fact then I would label its premise as pure nonsensical science fiction.  The Strangle brothers – Mike (a fingernails-on-a-chalkboard annoying Adam DeVine) and Dave (Zac Efron, borderline schizophrenic here) – are perpetual man-children whose deeply immoral, irresponsible, and hedonistic ways at various functions and get-togethers over the years have made them the black sheep of their family.  They’re simply out-of-control hooligans that deserve to be in straight jackets.  Yet, their dear ol’ daddy (Stephen Root, perhaps the only actor here trying to inhabit a modest aura of authenticity) wants to give these losers one more chance of redemption.  They're allowed to come to their baby sister’s (Sugar Lyn Beard) wedding in Hawaii…but only if they bring respectable dates to keep their embarrassingly obtrusive partying antics in check. 

Now, you’d think that for men that look like…say…Zac Efron…securing a date with a woman – any woman, classy or not – would be as easy as snapping your fingers together.  Nope, because in the bizarre fantasyland that is this movie, Mike and Dave desperately resort to Craigslist and later a TV talk show appearance to plead their case (in reality, I’m sure that the real Strangle brothers did it less out of desperation and more as a self-promoting publicity stunt to garner overnight fame).  Well, two floozies named Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) and Alice (Anna Kendrick) see their appearance and realize that this is their meal ticket to scoring a free trip to the tropical state.  Unfortunately, they are, to put it blunt, hard partying whores.  Realizing that they’ll have to clean up fast, Tatiana and Alice pose as – gasp! – nice girls to the hapless Stangle brothers, and because they (and just about everyone else in this film) are grade-A idiots, no one can see past their deception.  The four of them depart to Hawaii and things predictably snowball from there. 

MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES is one of those rare comedies starring limitlessly appealing (for the most part) actors that reduce themselves to playing characters that are not really credible and relatable human beings...and ones that don't occupy reality and a planet I like to call Earth.   Broad, farcical comedies are not meant to be holding a mirror up to society as a whole, to be sure, but even the most over-the-top and vulgar examples that I've seen have worked because they contained likeable and empathetic characters that we felt sorry for in the midst of all of the relative garbage that they go through.  Mike and Dave are never likeable, believable, or sympathetic characters at all.  We’re supposed to find these guys to be loveable losers, but they’re simply losers frustratingly stuck in a hellish state of arrested development.  I will give Efron props for at least trying to shed his Disney-fied baby faced/pretty boy image as of late, and he definitely has displayed a knack for comedy (see the two NEIGHBORS films), but any discipline displayed before is AWOL in this film.  And Adam DeVine is so bloody histrionic and excruciatingly loud in the film that I wanted to hurl something at the screen.  It’s one of the most insufferably one-note comedic performances of recent memory; no attempt is made by him to achieve any semblance of performance subtlety and occupy a convincing character. 

Sadly, the women fare no better either.  Aubrey Plaza has been so winning in previous comedies (SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED and THE TO DO LIST), but her immoral, impure and caustically potty-mouth schitck is starting to grow extremely tiresome.  Kendrick at least is trying to play against type, seeing as she's portrayed nice-girl-next-door roles for a majority of her career, but her supreme talents are horrendously wasted in a role of lazily-scripted superficiality.  Plaza and Kendrick, much like Efron and DeVine, are playing stereotypes on pure autopilot here.  They’re just not given much to work with here on paper.  The film establishes a tone for these personas early on, but then as it culminates towards a ludicrous climax – where everyone seemingly has a complete 180-degree, about-face emotional turn for the better – you kind of just want to throw your hands up in incredulous disgust.  MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES never once earns its ending, mostly because it’s really hard to care whether the men and women will hook up in the end. 

The film commits a big cinematic sin for comedies in thinking that it’s courageously pushing the envelope of taste and decorum, but it just falls flat on its face.  Some sequences are inexcusably unfunny, such as an extended bit involving Mike and Dave’s sister being pleasured by a nude Indian masseuse (Kumail Nanjiani) that feels like an adult-rated cartoon from hell.  The scene just goes on and on…and on.  The manner the film also uses one bisexual character (Mike and Dave’s cousin, played by Alice Wetterlund) as a chronically sex starved miscreant is pretty offensive (caricaturized gay and bisexual predatorily characters used for the purposes of sensationalistic chuckles frankly belongs in a misguided comedy from 25 years ago, not now).  MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES isn’t as assaultively infantile and puerile as the other Zac Efron/Aubrey Plaza comedy from 2016 (DIRTY GRANDPA exists on its own plane of repellent awfulness), but it remains one of the most thoroughly unpleasant experiences I’ve had in a movie theatre this year.  It’s a film that’s indicative of a damning trend in Hollywood these days: comedies that are so shrill, crude, and outrageous that they forget to be…well…funny.


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