In 2013, millennial bros Mike and Dave Stangle put out a Craigslist ad asking for two ‘nice girls’ to bring to their sister’s wedding. The ad went viral, and the ballsy Tucker Max types got themselves a cushy book and film deal. Now it’s 2016, and we have Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, an uneven blend of American Pie and Forgetting Sarah Marshall that’s as vapid as its protagonists and lacking in the improvisational laughs its cast so dearly wants to find.
The film starts with enough promise. We’re introduced to wild-child Mike (Adam DeVine, Workaholics) and respectable Dave (Zac Efron) through an opening-credits bacchanalia through several family weddings. They’re shown as the vibrant lives of the party, only to have the film undercut it with home-video footage of the carnage their womanizing, alcoholic selves wreak in front of their family. Now that their dear sister Jeanie (Stephanie Beard) is marrying the impressively boring Eric (Veep’s Sam Richardson), they promise their parents they will get ‘nice’ wedding dates to straighten themselves out. After their ad goes viral, they become taken with two ‘nice girls’ (Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza) who – surprise, surprise – are secretly just as trashy as they are. However, they vow to hide it as best they can so they can enjoy their free Hawaiian vacation, while dealing with the fratty dudes they never expected to fall for.
At its best, Mike and Dave works decently as an example of the now-expected Apatow school of comedy, where a bunch of skilled improvisers show up and ‘yes, and’ each other for 20 minutes per scene. In this respect, they picked a great cast: DeVine is patently the star of the show, bringing a rubber-faced exuberance that always comes off as a hilariously on-point parody of the “bro” mold. It would be foolish to ignore just how funny DeVine is, and it would be a small crime against comedy if this film didn’t give him more high-profile, meaty chances to shine like this.
DeVine’s Pitch Perfect co-star Kendrick also charms as Alice, the heartbroken ex-bride who has to swallow her wedding-related PTSD, as well as a whole mess of club drugs in the kind of drug trip scene that’s become ubiquitous in this kind of film. Efron and Plaza fare a bit worse, though; Efron’s hilarious when he’s in the zone and hamming around with DeVine, but he comparatively gets less to do by virtue of playing the straight man. Plaza, meanwhile, has to ham her way through an obnoxious Kardashian routine that doesn’t play to her stellar dry wit. At all turns, her character just feels like one of April Ludgate’s put-upon personas she uses to troll people on Parks and Recreation.
Maybe the most frustrating thing about the film is the lack of variety; Mike and Dave would have been great if it was more about the bros’ actual search for the girls, rather than the Sandler-esque hijinks that ensue in the film’s posh Hawaiian location. The inherent joke – that the two douchebags just find girls who are exactly like them – is a fun concept, but in execution it makes for two double acts that never differentiate themselves from one another. The closest we get to a real straight man for everything is Richardson’s groom, whose perfect squareness is used far too sparingly. It’s a frustrating experience; a lot of the individual gags work quite well, but they never build to anything cohesive, which is maybe too much to ask about a film involving people getting hit in the face with Jurassic Park ATVs.
Will Mike and Dave make you laugh? Sure it will. It has plenty of broad sitcom appeal, and the biggest gags come from DeVine and crew’s breathless improvisation, some of which is really great. That being said, you’d almost prefer if the film just threw these four actors in a room and let them long-form a story from whole cloth, rather than struggle to mine laughs out of an old Internet meme. I’m not one to dismiss adapting viral sensations into films out of hand: Safety Not Guaranteed, for instance, is a perfectly fine dramedy based on nothing but a viral news clipping. This one, however, creaks and groans under the weight of its premise, and eventually pulls even this talented cast into the undertow.