In the world of raunchy R-rated comedies, Zac Efron has graduated. After co-starring with Seth Rogen in the two Neighbors films and Robert De Niro in Dirty Grandpa, he has become the main dude in the heavily promoted, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.
I had intended to describe the film as "... the highly anticipated" but my fingers wouldn't type those words in that context. Aside from my son, I don't think anyone has been counting the days until the movie comes out. Instead, they're all waiting for the July 15 release of Ghostbusters, which means that Mike and Dave Need a Huge Opening Weekend, because they're going to get blown off the map in a week.
But enough about business. Let us talk instead about the artistry of the movie. Or maybe I should just stick to the facts. The film is loosely based on events in the lives of real-life brothers Mike and Dave Stangle, who gained attention after advertising for dates on Craigslist.
Here's the real Dave's description of the book they wrote about their adventures: "We'd been putting stupid shit on Craigslist for years. If you live in New York, you use Craigslist to get shit done or to rent a shitty apartment because you're always poor. We used Craigslist to fuck around."
Think I'll pass on that book.
Fortunately, the movie Dave (Efron) is better-spoken than the real one. Well, at least he uses a wider variety of dirty words. Because their antics ruined several family events, Mike (Adam DeVine) and Dave are directed by their parents to get dates to accompany them to Hawaii for the marriage of their sister, Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard). Dad (the great Stephen Root) believes that a pair of proper young ladies will keep the boys in line.
The guys advertise on Craigslist and the ad goes viral, drawing thousands of responses by opportunists and crazy people. They eventually end up asking two "nice girls" to join them, unaware that Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) are conning them in order to get a free vacation. The foursome heads for Hawaii, where it soon becomes clear that the nice girls are wilder than Mike and Dave at their worst.
I love Aubrey Plaza. She was wonderful as April on Parks and Recreation and she did fine work in the outstanding 2012 feature, Safety Not Guaranteed. Twilight and Pitch Perfect veteran Kendrick is solid as well. They fully commit to their roles and, for a while, it's fun watching their outrageous behavior.
While Adam DeVine is well-known to many from the Pitch Perfect films and a recurring role on Modern Family, I came to know him from Workaholics, the Comedy Central series about three sex- and weed-obsessed telemarketers. DeVine's comedy is based on finding the funny spot and then cranking it up to 11. It usually works, in part because his costars are at least a bit more grounded. He has perfected the art of horrific crying, scrunching his face into that of a furious infant and adjusting his voice accordingly. I applaud his skills and his daring, but at times I just want to grab him and say, "Find another approach – you're burning me out!"
And that's what happens in the film. Mike and Dave are funny because Efron, DeVine, Kendrick and Plaza are pros. There are plenty of rude and crude moments in the movie, and I laughed a lot. Until I didn't. I hit the wall about 20 minutes before the film ended, which isn't bad for a hard R comedy. Judging from the laughter, it seems that most of the sneak preview audience made it all the way to the closing credits.
I haven't mentioned the film's direction or script and there's a reason for that. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is a perfectly serviceable raunchy comedy, but that elusive something that elevates this kind of flick is missing. I'm looking forward to seeing the cast in whatever they do next. Hopefully, it won't be a sequel to this.