Ahhh, summer. A time for blockbuster movies and wedding receptions. It's also a time of R-rated wedding comedies, and the latest to follow in the crude footsteps of Wedding Crashers is the surprisingly funny Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. To be fair, it's not the kind of movie that won't linger on the mind for very long, probably about as long as it takes to say the overlong title, but what the film has going for it are four inspired lead performances, a welcome reversal of gender roles, and Zac Efron, who has turned hunky oafishness into an art form.
Coincidentally, the film is written by a pair of writers behind both Neighbors flicks, the R-rated comedies that proved Efron could turn taking his shirt off into worthy comic fodder. He's just as good here, albeit dialed down just slightly (He still gets a dance scene because OF COURSE HE DOES! He always will!) so that co-stars Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza can pick up the slack. The film is very loosely based on a true story, sort of in the same way Pain & Gain was based in fact but not really. Efron stars as Dave Stangle with Adam Devine as his brother, Mike, two wild and crazy guys whose penchant for hard-partying antics has ruined more than a fair share of family gatherings. Seemingly innocent trampoline play? Ends in disaster and bodily harm. Fireworks at a 4th of July get-together? Fire, explosions, ambulances...these guys are walking calamities. But they're relatively decent dudes working at the maturity level of teenagers.
Another example of how fundamentally caring the guys are is when their frustrated father (Stephen Root) demands they bring dates to their sister Jeanie's (Sugar Lyn Beard) upcoming wedding in Hawaii. The hope is that the boys won't go overboard trying to impress women, and thus will keep them out of trouble. They only whine about it for a few minutes before agreeing, knowing it's what their sister wants on the most important day of their lives. Somehow their ridiculous plan to score dates works, perhaps too well. They throw up an ad on Craigslist promising to take their dates to Hawaii, and naturally women (and some men) start jockeying for their attention. Somehow the brothers even end up on The Wendy Williams Show to pimp themselves out more. This attracts the attention of naughty gals Alice (Kendrick) and Tatiana (Plaza, who does naughty better than anybody) who pose as good girls to win the guys over. Well, there's also Tatiana throwing herself in front of a car to get clueless Mike's attention. The scheme works, and off to the islands they go.
From there on it's basically one big charade as Alice and Tatiana pretend to be professional, down-to-earth gals you wouldn't mind bringing home to meet mom. But they also come with some heavy-duty baggage the guys don't know about, and this is where the film is at its funniest. Alice is a nervous wreck after being left at the altar by her previous beau and the whole wedding scenario begins to drive her nuts. Tatiana has no problem teasing Mike, who clearly has the hots for her, to get anything and everything she wants. The best bits are when the gals repeatedly prove themselves to be more badass than their male counterparts, in particular a hilarious dirt racing scene that ends with tire treads all over the impending bride's face. The ladies are always one step ahead of the guys, and repeatedly prove they are just as irresponsible as any male in just about any other comedy. That's refreshing in and of itself. Another great moment, possibly the best of the entire film, involves a cameo by Silicon Valley standout, Kumail Nanjiani, who delivers the mother of all sensual massages to Jeanie, the victim of much of the film's naughtiest gags. Serving as an unnecessary distraction is Alice Wetterlund as Mike and Dave' oversexed lesbian cousin, a cliché that can please die now, thank you. And a little uncomfortable was the guys' dismissive attitude towards Jeanie's future husband, Eric (Sam Richardson), a quiet guy with a terminal case of passivity. It goes on too long and is never really explained why they dislike him so much, but it's mean-spirited enough to not really fit with Mike and Dave's personalities.
Efron pretty much takes a backseat here, except when he's called upon to be the attainable boyfriend-type for Kendrick's character, and that burgeoning love story is where the film is most generic and weak from a comedic standpoint. Unfortunately it's a huge part of the final act, and since their relationship never feels genuine the whole film starts to come apart. Devine's antics, a combination of the worst aspects of Zach Galifianakis and Jack Black, can get annoying pretty fast but he's balanced out by Efron and Plaza, the latter well in her caustic wheelhouse. You do kind of feel sympathetic to Devine, though, as the film's most recurring joke is Mike being compared to his brother in the most negative way possible. This is what happens when your brother looks like Zac Efron; you resemble the Elephant Man by comparison.
The film is directed by Funny or Die vet Jake Szymanski, making his debut behind the camera. He doesn't leave much of a fingerprint as a filmmaker but then this kind of story doesn't really call for that. However he does come up with a few nifty shots, especially during the aforementioned dirt bike scene. The best thing he does is keep the rhythm going for a brisk 98-minutes, which is all the commitment Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates should reasonably expect.
Rating: 3 out of 5