Flock of Dudes has a stacked cast, and it’s disappointing that the film doesn’t take full advantage of it. Over the movie’s 110-minute runtime, there are solid bits and one-liners from the likes of Chris D’Elia, Brett Gelman, Eric André, Kumail Nanjiani, Hannibal Buress, and Timothy Simons (seriously, this lineup of comedic voices is no joke!), but it’s not nearly enough to temper the otherwise obviousness of this almost exclusively male-focused buddy comedy.
Take another look at that murderer’s row of a cast: all men, and that’s because Flock of Dudes is about a 30-something guy breaking up with his group of college friends. The film begins from a male point of view and stays there; there are a few different female characters, but they’re all love interests with varyingly sparse personalities.
That would be tolerable, maybe, if Flock of Dudes had something original to offer in its tale of male friendship and masculine bonding. But this is all fairly run-of-the-mill stuff, the kind of delayed-maturity journey upon which Judd Apatow has built a career. As winning as the cast of Flock of Dudes is, it can’t redeem this unsurprising narrative.
Flock of Dudes focuses on Adam (D’Elia), whose life is stuck in the same old routines. He’s still best friends with his college crew—the handsome, unmotivated Barrett (Bryan Greenberg); the zany wildcard Howie (Gelman); and the goofy, affectionate Mook (André)—and they live in a gross rental that they trash while partying every weekend. Random women come and go. He works at the National Lacrosse League, where he handles his PR responsibilities in about a half-hour and then otherwise goofs off all day. In his years of adulthood, nothing has really changed.
Adam seems to finally get a wakeup call, though, when his younger brother David (Austin), a successful realtor, becomes engaged to his girlfriend Amanda (Hilary Duff), who just passed the bar exam. With their beautiful home and their promising careers ahead of them, David and Amanda seem to be adulting the right way—and it sparks in Adam a desire to change. So he has David help him draw up a “breakup contract,” an agreement between the four friends that would ban them from hanging out with each other for the six months leading up to David’s wedding.
With some forced time apart, maybe they’ll each grow—maybe Howie will finally get promoted, maybe Mook will pursue his passion for dance, maybe Barrett will go back to college and finish his degree. Adam doesn’t really think any of his friends will be that successful, though, because he’s convinced that the breakup will be best for him in particular. “Right now is the moment when I'm going to start to give a shit,” he proclaims, but of course, things don’t really work out that easily.
There are so many things for Adam to change his life—job he doesn’t care about, nowhere to live, etc.—but Flock of Dudes devotes a solid amount of his character development to his crush on coworker Beth (Simone), the quintessential cool girl: she’s beautiful, she plays kickball, she’s into sports, and she’s always dating jerks. So when she becomes single again, Adam decides to make his move, centering much of his self-betterment around a chance of getting with Beth. Whether he’ll succeed and whether the crew will get back together are the two climactic questions driving Flock of Dudes—although is it really a question if the answer is so clearly foretold?
D’Elia is a serviceable lead (although his drunk acting feels a bit too manufactured), and Gelman and André offer up their specific brands of weird humor in enjoyable ways, so the chemistry between the four leads isn’t the problem. And Buress (who gets a wonderful, terrible scene where he throws money at a stripper who is weeping and yells “I guess I’m into crying now!”) and Nanjiani (who tentatively, amusingly offers up that he liked crystal meth the one time he tried it) do well in their limited screen time, too.
But the structure of this storyline is so rigid—friends act badly, friends break up, friends get back together and claim to have “grown” even though they still act badly—that there’s little room for creativity or imagination. The most unique elements are throwaway gags like Howie sending a bouquet of dildos to Adam and Mook’s job as a revenge gift and the guys dressed up the California Raisins for Halloween, picking fights with the Ghostbusters, but those aren’t the core of the story.
And it’s problematic, too, that Flock of Dudes has no real interest in its female characters, even though the film “redeems” all the main males by giving them love interests by the film’s end.
Beth gets the most screen time so she can flirt with Adam, but has no true personality aside from “cool girl”; Melissa Rauch has a thankless role as the National Lacrosse League receptionist who is obsessed with Barrett, even though he can’t remember sleeping with her; Duff has a few lines as David’s perfect, boring fiancée; and there’s an extended gag including a woman Adam goes on a blind date with who spits in his face, tries to choke him, and says she hopes the condom broke so she can get pregnant.
The only funny thing about that latter subplot is that the woman has a tiger face tattooed on her ass, which Adam and David describe as “like the cartoon tiger, but hornier,” but even still, her character is ludicrous just so Adam and David can have a bonding moment. It’s an undermining of a female character to give the male characters something to do, and that’s unfortunately the dichotomy that dominates Flock of Dudes.
Maybe it was wrong to expect more from Flock of Dudes because of its great cast, but ultimately, the film is only so-so. Much like the bromance at its core, it doesn’t reach its full potential.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Guttenbergs