The experience of watching Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is much like attending a pair of strangers’ wedding. They certainly seem to be having a great time, and according to the people next to you, they’re a whole lot of fun. However, since this is simply the best day of the girlfriend’s niece’s life, there’s nothing to latch onto. It’s certainly not for lack of trying, as this film strains itself, at every turn, to get laughs. In fact, if it would stop trying to convince the audience of how fun it is for two seconds, it just might be just that.
The story centers on Mike (Adam DeVine) and Dave (Zac Efron) Stangle. They’re a pair of hard-partying liquor salesman, infamous for going a bit too hard at family gatherings. This poses a major threat to their sister Jeanie’s (Sugar Lyn Beard) upcoming wedding. In order to prevent mischief, their father (Stephen Root) orders both of them to find dates to keep them grounded. After accepting Craigslist interviews to no avail, Mike and Dave stumble upon a couple classy gals in a “car accident.” However, Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) and Alice (Anna Kendrick) planned this entire “fateful” meeting, hoping to get a free trip to Hawaii out of the deal. In order to keep up appearances, they pretend to be of a higher class than they are to impress the Stangle family.
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates spends the majority of its runtime pitting two comedic duos against each other. If these actors were all well matched and playing perfect notes, that maybe would’ve worked. However, there is a clear weak link in the chain. Efron, Kendrick, and Plaza are all accomplished comedic performers, and each of them manages to occasionally wring laughs. No matter how thin of characters they’re given, they’re just so naturally likable that they can’t help but be funny. Even so, they are all brought down by Devine. In a desperate attempt to keep up with his co-stars’ natural charms, he decides to go completely over the top. When he isn’t yelling, which is a rare occurrence, his one-note delivery makes every joke sound like it was whispered in his ear by a writer moments before. This destroys the key chemistry Mike and Dave needed to have to make this film work. There’s an overwhelming sense that Efron is merely tolerating Devine, a terrible starting point for any film about brothers.
The obnoxious direction by Jake Szymanski certainly isn’t doing these actors any favors. Despite having done a lot of TV work, including the hilarious 7 Days in Hell, he seems remarkably insecure here. There’s no room for natural delivery. Szymanski drowns the jokes in fast edits as if the camera needs to remind the audience when to laugh. While that style does lead to some solid pacing, it also never gives the film a moment to breathe. There are a couple of attempts at emotional beats, but even those have crude jokes flying at a mile a minute. There’s nothing wrong with crude humor. In fact, the film has a couple of dirty moments that are commendably naughty. However, when the people who are being dirty feel so disingenuous, they can be little more than glorified rodeo clowns. Szymanski is so worried about losing his audience’s attention that he forgets to invest in them in the first place.
It’s a shame too because there are a few moments where this movie comes alive. One or two of the large gags work, and there are a couple of funny one-liners. These are hints of what this movie could have been. All of them come from moments where the characters actually seem like human beings. Unfortunately, the screenplay doesn’t provide nearly enough of these moments. It’s remarkable that this film is based on a true story, as Mike and Dave, in particular, have such thin personalities. It’s hard to say what the real gentlemen are like. However, I could guarantee that a more down to earth adaptation of their story would have worked better. The truth is always stranger than fiction, and this film never escapes the mold of a cartoon.
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates just might work for those looking for a few laughs on a summer evening. It’s a puppy dog desperate for attention, but those are certainly watchable. However, nothing about it feels earnest. It completely forgets to humanize its characters, instead just using them as props for a bunch of dirty jokes. Without relatability, there is nothing memorable about this film to sustain it after its theatrical run. It’s the kind of movie you settle for at 3AM when sleep isn’t an option. Nothing you love is on, but it’ll do.