Bad Girls Gone Good (and Then Bad)
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
In the realm of raunchy hang out comedies, Wedding Crashers looms large. That 2005 film stars the pitch-perfect casting of Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as a couple of guys who live their lives around wedding season, hitting all the big parties (without being invited to any of them), helping to make the parties far more fun. They're like a couple of Van Wilders, there to bring the party magic anywhere they go. Wedding Crashers was a huge success, reaping $288.5 Mil against a budget of $40 Mil, and it proves the comedic power of its lead actors (which they struggled to find again in follow-up film, The Internship). And since then, fans have waited for the next film to pick up the delightful party crown.
Released in 2016, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (which is an absolute mouthful of a title) was poised as a film that could pick up that crown for the next decade of raunchy comedies. It had the raunchy, it had the funny, it was setting during a wedding. Hell, it even referenced Wedding Crashers in its dialogue. What could go wrong? Well, the film wasn't exactly beloved by critics (who absolutely savaged it at times). Even audiences, upon the films released, didn't seem to care much for the film, giving it only a "B" Cinemascore (when even the worse dregs of the industry can usually manage an "A-"). It apparently just didn't work and no one wanted to see it. The film managed to only recoup $77.1 Mil against its upwards of $35 Mil budget, only breaking even (if that) before falling into obscurity.
Thing is, though, that the film actually does work; you just need to go into it expecting a dub, funny, raunchy comedy. It's a Wedding Crashers, in essence, with its raunchy flag flying proudly. If you went into the film expecting something sweet, or nice, like a romantic comedy for these two doofuses (in the title roles) then the film wouldn't give you what you wanted. Legitimately the trailer manages to convey the kind of film people should have expected, but that assumes people actually watched the trailers. That, plus a luke warm advertising campaign (I didn't even know this film existed until I found the movie on VOD later that year) led to a film that couldn't find its audience. Which is a pity because the film really is funny. Stupidly funny.
Based (very loosely) on a real event -- that of an ad posted on Craigslist by two brothers, Mike and Dave Stangle, to find dates for their sister's wedding, before the ad went viral Online -- the film is all about those brothers and their quest for wedding dates. Mike (Adam DeVine) is an alcohol salesman while his brother, Dave (Zac Efron), is a lovable doof that follows him around and helps him with his business. They're party animals, going to all their family events and bringing the festivities up the proverbial "notch". However every time they go to one of these events things tend to go horribly at some point (like fireworks exploding a family camper van, or a giant trampoline leading to the injury of a bridesmaid, or the 50th anniversary of their grandparents being too big a bash and their grandfather having a heart attack). In short, these guys are too wild and they need someone to pull them back.
A deal, then, is struck: Mike and Dave have to find wedding dates or they won't be allowed to go to the wedding of their sister, Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard), and her fiance, Eric Huddle (Sam Richardson). So, being the dumb guys that they are, they put out an ad on Craigslist advertising that then need "two nice girls" for the wedding and, in exchange, the girls would get an all expenses paid trip to Hawaii for the week of the wedding. Naturally, all kinds of women came out of the woodwork for a free trip to Hawaii, but the guys settle on two of the nicest girls they meet, Alice Davis (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana Darcy (Aubrey Plaza). Only issue is that Alice and Darcy are even bigger partiers than the boys, and bringing them as their dates will only lead to worse problems...
The fun of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates comes from two sources. One, it's watching these two dumb guys be themselves as they party their way through a wedding. And then it comes from the girls who, despite their intention to be "nice girls", party hard and cause chaos everywhere they go. There's a lot of humor derived from seeing these four agents of chaos wander through what should, normally, be a sweet and mild event, but of course that can't happen whenever these guys and girls are around.
The film is, in short, uproariously funny. While critics at the time savaged it as only sporadically funny (and that was a kind review), the film honestly is packed with wall to wall laughs. You just have to be in the right mood for it. DeVine is, certainly, an acquired taste and not everyone is going to enjoy his persona (or his expressions, or his charisma). He was good in Pitch Perfect as a kind of villainous foil, but here he's one of the protagonists and it might be that audiences simply didn't gel with him in that role.
Working better are the tag team of Efron and Kendrick. The two are paired up as their love interests for this film, and each bring sweetness and warmth to their roles. He's a bid, dumb, nice guy (that parties hard) and she's a sweet, soft person (who parties harder still) and the two really bring out something nice in each other. Of course, that doesn't stop her from hiring a masseuse to give the bride-to-be a "happy ending" during a spa day, nor from getting her blitzed on MDMA the night before her wedding (all, in her own weird way, of helping the bride relax). Still, she meant well, right?
Most reviewers did praise Aubrey Plaza, though, for her role in the film. And that's fair as she does laps around the rest of the cast when it comes to the material. Plaza is able to use her deadpan delivery and dark character turns to craft Tatiana into an absolute force, and she steals every scene she's in. It's an impressive performance, and I can see why critics loved it. Singling her out isn't really fair to the rest of the cast, mind you, as I think they're all very funny (and are supported by an amusing script), but she does solid work here that, sure, shouldn't be ignored either.
What I think I enjoyed best about the film, though, was that it had a go for broke attitude. There isn't a set piece where the film isn't willing to go that extra step, to make things more loud, more wild, more over-the-top. It's a ridiculous film, to be sure, but it's also so very funny because it's willing to let its characters and scenarios play out to a heightened degree. The performances sell the scenarios, the scenes sell the humor, and it makes for a film where I found myself laughing constantly (even on a third watching of the film I did specifically for this movie). It really does just work in all the ways it needs to.
Who knows what happened with the film when it was released. An only okay trailer coupled with mediocre advertising didn't help it, nor did the fact that the viral ad that launched this story had already faded from memory two years prior to the film's release. Maybe audiences came in expecting something other than the finished product, like a proper Pitch Perfect reunion for Kendrick and DeVine (which this isn't). Whatever the case, the film didn't do well and is only really remembered by people like me that enjoyed it when they discovered it.
So take the time to discover it for yourself. You might just find another uproarious comedy you can add to your own personal collection. Give Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates a chance. It's worth it.