“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates”
Rated R (1:38)
Comedy is getting more and more nasty and more and more funny. But it’s hard to imagine any movie more nasty-funny than “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.”
It’s harsh, crude, vulgar, dirty-minded — and side-splitting. Be warned: It is not for everybody. If you are one of those people who sits in the theater counting the f-words, you will definitely lose count and your head may explode. But for those who are not easily offended — and particularly for those who are simply not offendable — this is a chance to laugh out loud for 98 minutes.
The beauty of the film is that, though it is utterly coarse in its content, it’s not coarse or sloppy in its craftsmanship. It belabors nothing, but rather plows through plot, accomplishing in one scene what another film might do in three. And then, once its setup is in place — a setup that, in itself, shows considerable comic ingenuity — it mines it, coming up with one winning comic bit after another, even as the story keeps moving forward.
Hundreds of comedies have been made with a single funny character. In “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates,” every character is comically skewed, opening up lots of possibilities for funny situations. We begin with the brothers, Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron), who are party animals with a tendency for destroying every family gathering. Their sister, Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard) is about to get married in Hawaii, and the family gives them an ultimatum. If they want to be part of the wedding, they must rein in their exuberance and find a pair of nice young women to bring as dates.
Apparently, there is a real-life Mike and Dave Stangle, who were presented with the same challenge, and they did what the Mike and Dave in the movie do. They put an advertisement in Craigslist with what they rightly assumed would be an attractive offer — an all-expenses paid long weekend. Soon they were deluged with women wanting to be chosen. That’s what happens here, but with interesting results.
It’s an odd thing about comedy. Though it evolves from decade to decade, and specific things that are funny to one generation aren’t funny to the next, the mechanical ingredients of comedy — self-delusion, deception, setups and reversals — stay pretty much the same. The key to “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” are the women, and they are like a device from a 17th-century Restoration comedy. Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) pretend to be nice women in order to be asked to the wedding. But they are bigger party monsters than Mike and Dave.
Screenwriters Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien devise precise and funny characteristics for each of the women. As Tatiana, Plaza is ill-tempered, domineering and gleefully manipulative, while Alice (Anna Kendrick) is seemingly sweet and vulnerable, but also a colossal mess. Unable to craft a believable lie, Alice tells Mike and Dave that her previous boyfriend died, that he had cancer and AIDS and was killed in a plane crash.
Every so often in comedy, filmmakers will get into a creative groove in which every scene is imaginative, almost unhinged and completely successful. This happens in “Mike and Dave.” There’s a disaster involving an argument accidentally broadcast over a live microphone and another disaster involving an all-terrain vehicle. There’s a crazy incident involving the drug Ecstasy and horses. But best of all, there’s a tantric massage scene that’s an instant classic, involving the bride-to-be and an agile Indian masseur.
It tells you something about the comic richness of “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” — its strength up and down the cast — that such a highlight should feature secondary characters. But then, there was just plenty of comedy to go around. This is the first feature film from director Jake Szymanski, and the worst that can be said for him is that he’s given himself a tough act to follow.