Every day we see people do things that we don’t understand. Make choices that are hard to fathom. Hell, we even do it ourselves; make decisions and engage in all manner of things that we later live to regret. If nothing else, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates serves as a reminder that even those entrenched in the rarefied world of Hollywood can be susceptible to making dodgy decisions. That is the only way to explain away the presence of Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza in a comedy that is seriously short on laughs. Both Kendrick (Up in the Air, End of Watch) and Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed, TV’s Parks and Recreation) have proven themselves polished performers, so it is difficult to fathom what, other than the lure of lucre, would draw them to a project such as this. Whilst Zac Efron’s presence here comes as no surprise given his penchant for taking on roles that require him to do little more than look pretty (Bad Neighbours, Dirty Grandpa), it is both disturbing and disappointing that Kendrick and Plaza felt they needed to be a part of this.
Efron is Dave Stangle who, along with his equally dim-witted brother Mike (Adam Devine), has become synonymous with causing chaos at family gatherings through their childish antics and general stupidity. When their sister Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard) announces she is getting married, the boys are ordered to be on their best behaviour at the event and are told that they must find suitable dates to accompany them to the Hawaii nuptials; the hope being that this will prevent them from running amok. It is when the boys attempt to find suitable dates goes viral and culminates with an appearance on a television talk show that Alice (Kendrick) and Tatiana (Plaza) – a couple of stoner chicks who have been sacked from their waitressing jobs after one too many drunken indiscretions – see an opportunity to score a free holiday. Needless to say, the wedding celebrations turn to chaos with myriad mishaps and misunderstandings that are clearly intended to incite guffaws of laughter but are, for the most part, not particularly funny.
One of the biggest problems is the fact that Alice and Tatiana are presented as two up-for-anything good time girls, but neither Kendrick nor Plaza seem willing to deliver the type of edgy, raunchy, unselfconscious performance that is in keeping with how we are expected to perceive these characters. Subsequently, it is left to Beard to do the hard yards with a series of moments – a ridiculously raunchy massage, a nude ecstasy trip and a face mangled in an ATV mishap – that show a willingness to push the envelope and ultimately upstage her more illustrious co-stars. Beyond Beard, it is Alice Wetterlund who fares best as Cousin Terry; her pursuit of Tatiana providing a few moments of mirth. It’s interesting that Devine (Pitch Perfect 2) has proven himself quite charming and comedic in his various promotional appearances in Australia, but his fast-talking, manic shtick can’t compensate for a screenplay laden with predictability. Stephen Root (Office Space) and TV veteran Stephanie Faracy have little to work with as the boys’ parents, while Sam Richardson is equally hamstrung by an under-developed character in Jeanie’s fiancé Eric. The fact that the marriage between the hulking African-American Eric and the diminutive squeaky-voiced Jeanie is set-up as a joke in itself gives you an idea of what you get with Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.
Now this is Hollywood, so the obligatory moments of redemption are attempted in the third act, but none of them are convincing in the least. Whilst based very loosely on real life events, first-time feature director Jake Szymanski and screenwriters Andrew Cohan and Brendan O’Brien have taken the premise to extremes and this results in a messy, ambling sprawl; a series of sketches rather than anything resembling a coherent plot, which perhaps stems from Szymanski’s background helming the likes of Funny or Die and Saturday Night Live. We may never really know what it was that convinced Kendrick and Plaza to take this on and, whilst they are both better than the material they have been presented with here, their failure to fully commit to the persona of their characters only serves to undermine the screen appeal of two enormously likeable performers.