Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
Directed by Jake Szymanski
Opens July 8
Even projects he’s not connected to come bearing the Judd Apatow touch these days, with studio comedies having adopted his style wholesale: shock gags of violence or nudity; cameos by familiar funny faces, there for their persona rather than as developed characters; pop culture references, again, as references rather than anything illustrative; monologues to give the broadest character complexity; and of course, a heavy bias towards improv. In Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, characters line up for “your face looks like X” one-liners, a sign director Jake Szymanski couldn’t settle on his favorite (there are more options in the bloopers).
It’s a moment-by-moment form of comedy, where making a gag at a particular instant is more important than overall story consistency. Here, wild girls Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick sneak their way onto the title characters’ (Adam DeVine and Zac Efron) gone-viral offer for a free trip to their sister’s wedding in Hawaii (Having dates to temper their antics is a prerequisite of attending, the latest 10 Things I Hate About You-esque example of plot contrivances arising from arbitrary parental rules), but the film plays it fast and loose with how dedicated the girls are to their nice-girl charade, how responsible the guys are supposed to be, and even with how controlling the bride is. What do Mike and Dave care if their sister tosses the itinerary out the window? If they sought dates with sex in mind, shouldn’t they be excited and not betrayed to learn they’re there with horny party stoners and not prim puritans? Having the tensions flip from scene to scene means little of the character-based humor lands.
That’s especially true for Plaza, who has yet to feel comfortable in a role outside her discomforting April Ludgate, and DeVine, who confuses volume for humor. Efron and Kendrick fare better, he with a more appealing and consistent character, her with a backstory that justifies her mood swings, but their burgeoning affection is too muddled under all the mania.
This summer previously saw Efron in Neighbors 2, another Apatow-ian comedy that was surprisingly progressive on gender issues. Mike and Dave arguably pushes this further with its unapologetically sexual and boisterous women, but at a certain point it isn’t enough to merely do extreme humor—it has to actually be funny.