Based on the real adventures of the Stangle brothers, MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES is a raunchy romp that is fearless in how it skirts the shoals of sleaze before it wades right in. When it does, though, it’s with an amiable nature governing the hijinks and more than a few moments that are laugh-out-loud funny as fraternal ties and true friendship are celebrated with a genuine sincerity.
The eponymous brothers Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) are basically decent, but excitable, human beings who have a tendency to ruin family gatherings with their outsized and inappropriate sense of partying. Perhaps it’s that love of partying that led to them going into the wholesale liquor business together. With the destination wedding of their beloved younger sister Jeanie (Stephanie Beard) to the sweet but stuffy Eric (Sam Richardson) coming up, a family intervention occurs. Dad (Stephen Root), Mom (Stephanie Faracy) and the betrothed sit down with the brothers, show them a highlight reel of their history of destructive conviviality, and deliver an ultimatum. That would be to bring dates to the Hawaiian wedding, and not just any dates. They are tasked with finding nice girls that the family hopes will keep Mike and Dave in check.
It’s not to be.
Sure, they’re basically decent guys, and they want to make their sister happy, but, true to their knack for egging each other on to questionable ideas, they decide to go the Craig’s list route. The ad goes viral, and when one thing inevitably leads to another, those things lead to Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza), two newly unemployed waitresses with a weakness for partying hard that rivals that of Mike and Dave. They also need for some quality time in paradise to recover from the steaming mess that is their lives. Being clever ladies, well, clever-ish, they don’t let the “nice” part of the date requirements get in the way. They boldly, if impetuously, reinvent themselves, plot a meet-cute scenario, and soon the quartet are in Hawaii getting up to those hijinks I mentioned before. Those include the girls finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their cover, and the boys falling for the women that they are pretending to be, and a masseuse (Kunil Nanjiani) with a determined if unconventional way of manipulating chi.
Devine and Efron effortlessly radiate the requisite nice guy vibe, they even evoke an oddly counter-intuitive wholesomeness, both of which are necessary for any of this to work. Doltish they may be, but selfless, too, when it counts, with an unexpected wide-eyed innocence that is irresistible. If Devine is almost too nice for his own good when Mike is dealing with the deadly and deadpan machinations of Plaza’s Tatiana, making you want to run in and rescue him before he is eaten alive, Efron and Kendrick are a sweeter pairing, even when the film hits a dead spot by abandoning its frenetic pacing with a complete change in tone from farce to middling rom-com as the two make a genuine love connection.
Some jokes work. The guy’s endless variations reacting with horror to the results of the bride-to-be’s run-in with an ATV is terrific; Kendrick wearing a horse for perfectly sound reasons has a whimsical insouciance. Others, and they’re not the best ones, go on too long. It’s as though all involved are trying to pummel us into submission about the quality of the putative comedy. There’s also the problem of predictability. You can pretty much map out the plot points after the first 20 minutes or so, and then sit back to mentally tick them off as they go by with their stock characters like the control-freak of a maid-of-honor (Chloe Bridges) and the sexually omnivorous, not to mention voracious, cousin (Alice Wetterlund) who is Mike’s mouthy nemesis. And, most egregious, a trip to a site used as a movie location come off as exactly what it is, free advertising for the actual tourist excursion.
What we learn from MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES is that sudden shifts in mood are anathema to a comedy of this sort, but we also learn that handy equines will do in a pinch when clothes have been impulsively tossed aside. As a light summer comedy, this will do nicely as a sly backhanded salute to family values with, like the guys themselves, has more than a few boundary issues.