MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES (Fox)
Dir. Jake Szymanski, Script. Andrew J. Cohen & Brendan O’Brien
Cast: Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick, Adam DeVine, Aubrey Plaza
Plot: *See 3 lines up*
I want, and I’m sorry but you’ll understand in a minute, to digress and discuss a topic that absolutely every single one of us experiences – cinema advertising. That unwanted, near half-hour distraction that is apparently supposed to keep ticket costs down (when the reality is that the effect is far less pronounced) has long been an annoyance. In fact, for a film reviewer such as myself, it’s even more irritating as nobody at ODEON changes the advertising loop, so I often end up watching the same adverts over and over again until I feel like I’m becoming Bill Murray. However, at the commencement of this advertising loop, there was a change: an announcement from the cosmetics company Revlon that the movie I was about to be subjected to had been selected as one of the most romantic films released into cinemas for 2016, as part of its cringeworthy ‘Love is On’ campaign, which seems ironic when you consider that PETA removed the company from its green-list of cosmetics manufacturers known to not test on animals. And that’s not news to me – there was also an inundation of Revlon ads (there’s about six of the twats) during the Me Before You loop. But the movie in question, this most romantic and love-affirming of pictures, was Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates, a hard-R screwball comedy from the minds behind the Bad Neighbours franchise including scenes in which people get hit in the face by oncoming flying quad-bikes and characters take MDMA. Knowing this in advance, you can imagine how incredibly off-tone and hilarious it was to see Halle Berry swooning over a handsome man, encouraging us all to ‘Choose Love’ and buy a concealer that probably gave a rabbit unimaginable trauma.
But, I suppose, Revlon’s misstep is understandable: ‘Wedding’ and ‘Date’ are two words that often evoke images and feelings of affection, as well as remind the humble film reviewer of that which is unachievable to them most of the time. So is Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates a genuine romance film? Actually, yes and no. No for the aforementioned drug use and vehicular manslaughter, but Mike And Dave does attempt to go down the romance route at times, in a manner that exemplifies the fact that they really shouldn’t have. It’s impossibly off the mark – watching an R-rated comedy film suddenly have an identity crisis and morph into Zac Efron and Anna Kendrick discussing existentialist questions in a tree, with literally no transition between the two tones, is the most jarring thing the world has seen since Marie Antoinette offered the French cake. The romance scenes in Mike And Dave belong there about as much as a child belongs in a brothel, Sausage Party belongs in the Pixar filmography, and I belong in a close-knit, rural farming community where the nearest cinema screen is a hundred miles away. These scenes just do not work, and I struggle to understand why they were left in there, or at least not given comprehensive rewrites.
The dialogue is flat as a pancake, wetter than a whale in the thunderstorm and more obvious to the human eye – it lacks in almost every department known to the human race and all other species yet to be discovered. Worse still is when scriptwriters Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien feel the sudden and urgent need every fifteen minutes to make a reference to Twitter-lingo. Sudden shouts of ‘#2016’, ‘RiRi is my JAM!’, and continual cries of ‘Feminism’ whenever one of Kendrick/Plaza do anything at all are immeasurably annoying. No object of measurement could possibly contemplate the scope of how jarring it is, nor how insufferable and unnecessary. Think any length of measuring tool, have your worst enemy crucify you on it and leave you looking like a kebab, and I feel you would be less frustrated. Add to all this Adam DeVine, who for the most part believes the righteous path to comedy is by making loud and bewilderingly-pitched noises in reaction to anything and everything his chatacter is presented with. I’ll admit that works on some occasions in this movie, but the best thing you could say for DeVine is that he’s hit or miss here.
The thing is though, all criticism of Mike And Dave‘s desperately poor attempts to be romantic, existentialist and progressive aside, this film is still an R-rated comedy movie, and it must be thought of as such, regardless of what Revlon would have you believe. And the fact is, Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates is a good comedy. Perky, often chuckle-worthy and sometimes side-splitting, Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates will probably do enough to give you a decent cinema trip. Most of the jokes hit their mark well enough, and the principal cast are having so much fun here that you can’t help but have fun along with them (I’m not complimenting them for that, as I believe the obvious reaction to being able to shoot a movie in Hawaii and get paid millions for the privilege is to have a good time). The eponymous double act, the immature party-loving Stangle brothers played gamely by Zac Efron and the screaming DeVine, are eminently watchable, although this is most certainly a film that makes you laugh at them rather than with them. They are two idiots in the most noble sense of the word, and Efron has reignited his career by playing dumb and shirtless, which he is in Mike And Dave most of the time (I presume its a clause in any contract he signs now). While the boys are easy to laugh at, its Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza who absolutely steal this movie as a pair of chicks scoring a free Hawaiian holiday by playing goody-two-shoes lover-girl. Plaza hits this mark impeccably – she’s as sharp a comedian here than she’s ever been before, kissing up to DeVine in a way that is so perfectly, hilariously fake that it doesn’t just strike the balance between brilliant and obvious, but almost satirises what it means to be a ‘perfect girl’ in the eyes of meat-headed, dick-driven men, and how ridiculous that notion really is. Kendrick’s character is your stereotypical American comedy stoner, but unlike Plaza is looking for Efron to help her out of a romantic lurch, having been left at the altar. Anna plays both sides of her character strongly, and her chemistry with Efron is actually not bad at all.
Better still, the visual comedy is golden here. Director Jake Szymanski has a great eye for it, most notably in a sequence involving quad-bikes (you’ll know it if you’ve seen any of the trailers). As well as that, Mike And Dave‘s editing team have not only cut together a comedy in a way that isn’t nauseating, and is actually really fantastic – it enhances the comedy for the most part, rather than what most studio comedies have been doing for the last few years and being so loose-cannon that it distracts you from the jokes. In hindsight, I can just about stretch my logic to encompass the thought processes the folks at Revlon had when they decided to sponsor the advertising loop for this movie – Efron’s washboard of a chest is probably worth $50m gross at this point, and it goes down the luvvy-duvvy route far more than you might expect, albeit in a way that feels like watching a disgruntled man stamp on a flower bouquet. If you are somebody that does listen to Halle Berry taking a cheque from a multi-national corporation that PETA is known not to be a fan of, and you want to ‘Choose Love’, then exit that movie theatre with all due haste. However, if you’re up for a laugh, and if comedies are gauged by how much you laugh, I admit that Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates had me chortling more than a film critic should like to admit.
BEST WATCHED: Definitely wait until it comes out on rental, but its worth 90 minutes of downtime.
Zac Efron will wish that his resurgence over the last couple of years will have erased High School Musical from the world’s collective consciousness. You can bet on it not having been wiped just yet, and watching him run in slow-motion in the movie version of Baywatch alongside San Andreas co-stars Alexandra Daddario and Dwayne ‘Candy Asses’ Johnson, fresh from wanting to murder Vin Diesel on the Fast & Furious 8 set, will not help Efron’s plight. Meanwhile, Anna Kendrick has a voice role in the upcoming DreamWorks animation Trolls, as well as co-starring with Ben Affleck and J.K. Simmons in The Accountant, a thriller in which Affleck becomes as good at problem solving as Matt Damon was about 20 years ago.