Monday, July 4, 2016

'Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates' review

Zac Efron's career shift from teen idol to R-rated comedy star has been unexpected to say the least. I don't even think that Seth Rogen believed he was creating a new comedian when he cast Efron in 2014's Neighbors. But somehow, Efron has gone with it, and he's more successful than ever before. Granted, his forays into the raunchy comedy genre have been a mixed bag. Neighbors is a 21st century classic, but Dirty Grandpa is one of the worst movies of the last few years. Efron's latest film, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, sits comfortably in a nice middle ground between the two. It's a movie that is lacking in a few areas, but it's amiable and charming, slowly getting better as it moves along before reaching a fever pitch of hilarity. Efron, Modern Family star Adam DeVine, Aubrey Plaza, and Anna Kendrick make for a terrific cast, and it's not too hard to imagine the film potentially playing as a breakout summer hit.

Sorta kinda maybe based on a true story, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates has a plot that is pretty self-explanatory. Mike and Dave Stangle (DeVine and Efron, respectively) are two fun-loving brothers who party hard and think about the consequences later. As their father and mother (Stephen Root and Stephanie Faracy) discuss at the beginning of the movie, Mike and Dave have a tendency to come to family events and screw things up massively. Whether it's trampoline accidents or fireworks fiascos, Mike and Dave somehow manage to keep everyone else from having fun with their silly antics. And because of this, Mom and Dad have a request for the next family gathering. Jeanie, their younger sister, is getting married, and Mike and Dave are required to bring dates to the wedding.

Initially, Mike and Dave resist the idea. Bringing dates to the wedding would kill their buzz, and it's just not something they're down for. However, after some pleading from their sister, they decide to do it just for her. Mike posts an ad on Craigslist, and all of a sudden, their desperate need for wedding dates becomes an internet sensation. After an appearance on the Wendy Williams Show, the boys catch the eye of Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) and Alice (Anna Kendrick), two girls who are down in the dumps, having just lost their jobs after a drunken incident. They pounce on the idea of a free trip to Hawaii, and pretend to act like "nice girls" to catch the attention of Mike and Dave. The scheme works for a while- but how long can the girls keep it up before the boys realize something is up?

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates works well when it realizes what it should be. Yeah, the character moments can be kinda sweet, and there's a decent attempt to add some sense of poignancy to the proceedings. But ultimately, Mike and Dave is at its best and at its funniest when it is going for laughs, pushing the limits of the R rating with its raunchy audacity. Director Jake Szymanski and screenwriters Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O'Brien initially try to push for a movie that just isn't there, but as the film moves forward, the momentum picks up and it becomes a solid laugh riot. Szymanski is great at staging comic setpieces, and the screenwriters (who also wrote the Efron-starred Neighbors) have fun with the character moments. When Mike and Dave isn't trying too hard, it can be the perfect storm of light-hearted comic fun.

Much of that credit should go to the cast, all funny people who are game for absolutely anything with this outing. Efron is sorta stuck playing the straight man here again, the kind, soulful guy who is repressed by all of the people around him. Don't get me wrong, Efron has his share of hilarious moments, but there were just some strange parallels between his character in Dirty Grandpa and in this film. Adam DeVine has always been a standout on Modern Family as Andy, the ex-girlfriend of Haley who just so happens to have some eerie similarities to Ty Burrell's Phil. DeVine has been featured in a supporting role in the Pitch Perfect franchise, but Mike and Dave is his first starring role, and unsurprisingly, he does quite well. DeVine has a silly charm that works wonders, and no matter how stupid his character is, you always end up liking him.

The male stars are great, but Plaza and Kendrick upstage them in just about every single way, and I'm not sure that the movie would work nearly as well without their casting. Plaza succeeds in being almost breathtakingly vulgar, verbally sparring with her co-stars and spouting out profanity like it's nobody's business. She works as an excellent foil for DeVine, and it definitely feels like this character was written with Plaza in mind. Same goes for Kendrick, who can play both sour and sweet with ease. There's definitely more of the latter in Alice, a character who has been through a lot and has some well-defined issues because of it. Alice is delightful and funny, and she's ultimately the most sympathetic of our four protagonists, which is something that Kendrick does exceptionally well.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates blends all of that star charisma with an effortless appeal, some laugh-out-loud sequences, and a distinct summer vibe. Set in Hawaii, drawing comparisons to both Wedding Crashers and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Mike and Dave feels like quintessential July entertainment, playing off its location and atmosphere well. And on top of that, Szymanski is great at maximizing the laugh factor. As demonstrated by the end credits, the filmmakers had a plethora of material to work with and they whittled it down to some truly funny stuff. The exposition is a tad lackluster, but when the film gets rolling, the laughs rarely stop. One sequence in a spa is particularly memorable.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is brisk, funny summer entertainment with four appealing young actors leading the charge. It promises nothing more, and delivers nothing less. When it stretches its ambitions, things fall flat. But when it focuses on making the audience laugh and creating energetic, likable characters, it's a surefire success. Very funny and definitely coming in with a hard-R rating, Mike and Dave is a crowd-pleaser that breezes right along with a goofy smile on its face and a charming likability that will work wonders with comic audiences.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B                                              (7.1/10)

Image Credits: IndiewireEW, Coming Soon, Joblo

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