If this is the comedy Hollywood thinks millennials want, we’re screwed.
Mike and Dave Stangle are two hard-partying brothers whose frat boy antics always end up ruining the party. The boys have messed up enough family gatherings that their parents demand that they bring respectable “nice girls” as dates to their sister’s wedding in Hawaii so they don’t hit on other girls or do anything that could potentially destroy the big day.
The premise is very loosely based on the true story of the real-life Mike and Dave Stangle whose viral Craigslist ad for wedding dates led to a book and movie deal. (It doesn’t hurt to have a CAA trainee as a friend.) Hollywood felt there was enough fodder in their story for a movie, but it wears thin quick. What starts off as an adventure about two bros on a quest for dates turns into a battle of shenanigans between bros versus dates, then bro versus lesbian cousin, then bro versus bro versus dates. This convoluted attempt at a bromantic comedy aimed at millennials is filled with clichéd antics reminiscent of but not quite as hilarious as Wedding Crashers and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Zac Efron plays Dave, the good-looking brother who is secretly an artist, and Adam Devine plays Mike, the funnyman alcohol salesman who has the unfortunate luck of being older brother to someone who looks like Zac Efron. The two have some serious bro-tastic chemistry, but neither performance feels genuine. Efron – who recently hit his stride in raunchy comedies like Dirty Grandpa and the Neighbors films – has been reduced to a bro with the mind of a 12-year-old. It’s surprising that the screenwriters are also responsible for Neighbors because this film lacks the fun and heart of those movies.
The film’s greatest twist is that it’s not so much about Mike and Dave than it is about their dates, Alice and Tatiana, two hard-partying, bong-smoking, fun-loving best friends who spot the brothers on The Wendy Williams Show and pretend to be good girls in order to win the brothers over along with a free trip to Hawaii. Aubrey Plaza steals the show as Tatiana with her perfect deadpan resting bitch face and DGAF HBIC attitude. Anna Kendrick plays the sweet but broken Alice, whose last wedding experience resulted in a groom that left her at the altar. She’s the only character with a real arc and backstory, and we’re reminded of it every 20 minutes or so when she pulls out her phone to watch the video of the moment her groom said, “I do… not.”
The leads are funny in their own right and the girls succeed in out-grossing the guys – porn watching, drink chugging, and then some. Sugar Lyn Beard excels as the saccharine bride Jeanie and Mary Holland gives great face as her high-strung maid of honor Becky. Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani delivers a scene-stealing performance in a WTF-inducing massage sequence. Alice Wetterlund is given the task of playing the caricature oversexed lesbian cousin but pulls it off. Marc Maron is there for a hot second playing the Marc Maron version of himself. There are some highlights like the surprisingly fun ATV sequence a LOL-worthy ecstasy trip, but they’re not enough to save the film from its stereotypes about young people and use of people of color as mere props to mark off the diversity checklist.
We’re constantly reminded that the characters are hip millennials through superficial conversations filled with mentions of hashtags, viral videos, and hip-hop culture references. The few potential moments for realization are abruptly interrupted with bad jokes, a mention of a weird sex position, and a Rihanna-inspired “brrap brrap”. It’s not that young people don’t talk like that, it’s just that we don’t talk like that all the time.
If the lesson of the film is about embracing yourself for who you are, hot mess and all, then so be it. But there should be more to it than several slow motion party sequences set to blaring rap music. If Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates wants to be a comedy for millennials, like a Superbad or 21 Jump Street, it should work a little harder. Believe it or not, millennials and movies about them can be #smart.