Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

Review by Elena Lazic @elazic

Directed by

Jake Szymanski

Starring

Anna Kendrick Aubrey Plaza Zac Efron

Anticipation.

A film about how it’s hard when you’re a middle class white man to take anything seriously. Zac Efron though.

Enjoyment.

Like watching an interesting hot person waste time on his embarrassingly mediocre, unfunny friends.

In Retrospect.

Mike and Dave need to watch Adam McKay’s 2008 film, Step Brothers.

Zac Efron and Adam Devine play hapless dudebro brothers in this silly, surprisingly offensive comedy.

It might be unfair to compare this aggressively average gross-out comedy – which sits in some depressing space between Trainwreck and Dirty Grandpa – to a classic modern comedy like Step Brothers. Yet both films rely on a similar premise: two brothers who are well into adulthood struggle to act grown up. But if Adam McKay’s 2008 film suggested that staying true to oneself while being a respectable adult was in fact the easy, cowardly way out, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates argues the exact opposite. It is another raucous ode to heteronormativity, capitalism and married life which brutally rejects all alternatives as childish or horrific.

But first, let’s talk about the comedy. The film is based on the ‘true story’ of two brothers looking for nice girls to be their dates at their sister’s wedding. Events follow a clear narrative trajectory, but with the humour mostly improvised – as confirmed by bloopers in the end credits – the story often appears as merely a supporting framework for one liners, extended riffs and self-contained jokes. Mike and Dave does not exploit this structure to its full potential, and the awkward script (“Hey! Maybe these two girls could be our dates!”) seems to restrain the improv talents of the cast. This plays to Zac Efron’s advantage, who acquits himself well as the clueless Dave in contrast to the irritable Adam DeVine as Mike.

The jokes – ranging from sarcastic remarks to weird noises, to funny voices and endless repetition of the thing that wasn’t amusing the first time – are often not funny in themselves, but the characters make them up within a banal space. Which makes sense, given that our protagonists self-identify as funny. Yet the film itself is uncertain about being on their side or contemptuous of them, which leaves us feeling rather disoriented, stuck between a smile and a confused frown. Like an uncle anxiously filling every minute of a family gathering with as many jokes as possible, the film relentlessly beats the viewer into submission to the extent that you become numb to the sexism, homophobia, transphobia and casual misogyny that’s scattered in.

The conservative message here is that true happiness is found not in excess, but in having a nice girlfriend, getting married and making money. Like Trainwreck before it, Mike and Dave aligns itself with the perspective of its target audience of immature grown-ups striving to simultaneously conform and have fun. And if the man-child’s ultimate desire not to disappoint their parents was believable and touching in Step Brothers, here it’s simply a plot point set to occur mechanically two thirds into the film’s runtime, without any real motivation behind it.

The obligatory emotional confession scene, where the boys and girls finally open up to one another, is so bluntly delivered that it feels as if it was originally written for the actors to improvise around. However, this being the one sincere sequence where no jokes are allowed, improv is sadly forbidden. So we’re left with Aubrey Plaza’s Tatiana and Devine, apparently helpless, literally saying to one another, “Hey listen to this one: I think I’m so cool, but sometimes I think, actually, I’m really not!” This talented group of actors deserve better.

Published 8 Aug 2016

Tags: Anna Kendrick Zac Efron

Anticipation.

A film about how it’s hard when you’re a middle class white man to take anything seriously. Zac Efron though.

Enjoyment.

Like watching an interesting hot person waste time on his embarrassingly mediocre, unfunny friends.

In Retrospect.

Mike and Dave need to watch Adam McKay’s 2008 film, Step Brothers.

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