This year saw one of the worst disasters in comedy in recent memory. By that, I am of course referring to the revolting, turgid, pathetic, shamelessly-foul Dirty Grandpa. It confirmed for us that Robert De Niro has genuinely given up trying to be an actor anymore and was a serious low point for High School Musical, pretty-boy-turned-quite-likable-chap Zac Efron. After that monstrosity, going into anything Efron does now is a scary prospect, but thankfully, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates proves decent enough. It splashes out on gleeful profanity and messy, R-rated slapstick from an ultimately schlocky premise, with the hits landing just enough to overcome the ones that don’t.
Brothers Mike and Dave (Efron and Devine) are notorious among their family for causing mayhem at every event they go to. For their younger sister’s wedding, their parents ban them from attending unless they can bring along dates to keep them in check. Two waitresses Alice and Tatiana (Kendrick and Plaza) see the pair advertising a free trip to a wedding in Hawaii, and decide to take the boys up on their offer.
The strength of Kendrick and Plaza are the predominant tent poles in holding up the film’s comedic value. They have a great deal of attitude, and they’re both determined to get the most out of what they have. Kendrick pops ecstasy pills, inhales weed and drinks like a fish throughout, and yet maintains an innocent likability that we’ve come to expect from her through Pitch Perfect and other works. Plaza’s character spends time trying to keep Kendrick close whilst covering up her own insecurities through hard-edged quips and swaggers. They both work extremely well together and their jokes come thick and fast and hit the ball in the net.
Writers Andrew Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, who come fresh off the heels of Neighbors, can be held in high regard for getting the girls’ comedy in the right court. The inconsistencies come with Mike and Dave, who go from quiet interchanges to total riled-up shouty sketches with no transition. Dave is manageable; he’s the most sensible out of the four, and Efron’s likability softens the dagger of some of his previous comedies. However, when there’s yet another scene of him and Mike scrapping over drugs, or some cringe worthy romantic talking, it does grind, though thankfully not for too long. Devine does an awful lot of shouting and screaming; most of his lines are extremely overacted, and several of his gags fall flat.
There’s not much pioneer spirit either. It’s a messy premise (the title is far too wordy itself), but under the new skin of getting dates which are actually worse than them, it follows a generic path. Some imperfect guys act immature for their age, row a lot and ruin family times; they bring in some romantic interests with their own flaws; and through a mixture of sentimentality, gross-out, and witty humour, their problems unravel and bonds get formed. That’s not to say a lot of it isn’t enjoyable; I laughed pretty much all the way through, though sometimes at the absurdity-level of the stuff that’s happening. There’s a scene with a masseuse which is all out vulgar slapstick humour. It’s excessive and out of place, and while you may laugh, you’ll wonder why on earth it’s there.
There’s not a great deal that many fans of summer R-rated comedies won’t have seen before. The structure is cluttered and while jokes don’t work, many do. Efron is beginning to patch up his wounds from Dirty Grandpa, and while Devine’s jokes sometimes loudly fall flat, Kendrick and Plaza deliver the goods. It’s both light relief and all out profanity at once. Interpret that how you like.