Saturday, 30 July 2016

Movie Review: Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)



You know, not that many years ago, I would’ve openly dreaded any film starring that guy from High School Musical. My, how times have changed. This Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates.



The plot: Mike (Adam DeVine) and Dave (Zac Efron), on the eve of their sister Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard)’s wedding, are asked by their parents to bring dates to the event in the hopes of helping rein them in. After their Craigslist ad looking for prospective dates goes viral, down-on-their-luck waitresses Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) pretend to be ‘nice girls’ in order to go. However, once they touch down in Hawaii, it’s unclear on whom will have to be reined in after all.

Efron is well and truly in his nouveau-bro comfort zone and he maintains his new standard here as the level-headed brother. Devine… yeah, even though he’s gotten some choice roles recently and his star is definitely rising, I’m still calling too soon for him to headline a movie. I say this because the guy is on permanent mugging mode and, even when his character gets suitably unhinged and it actually begins to make sense for him to be gurning as much as he does, it’s still really distracting and kind of annoying. Plaza didn’t impress me all that much a few months back with Dirty Grandpa, and while she’s definitely in the presence of better material here, she works really well with said material but doesn’t really strike that many funny chords. It’s natural to the point of being kind of skippable, which I’m still willing to commend her for because it at least shows that she understands the character she’s playing. And then there’s Kendrick, and I think I’m developing a crush on Alice just a little bit. Maybe it’s because she’s already the one who is hiding her true nature the least between her and Plaza, but she is really likeable, really watchable and her chemistry with Efron is outstanding.

When taking this film at face-plot-value, I can’t help but be reminded of last year’s The Wedding Ringer. You know, another film involving a wedding and people needing to pretend to be nice just to fulfill their own selfish ends. Now, anything that makes me remember that Kevin Hart exists (the main reason why I am suddenly dreading The Secret Life Of Pets as much as I am) is enough due cause for me to hate a film at this stage, except this has a lot more going for it. For one thing, the script has a startling amount of self-awareness. The very first scene of the film, we get a rather hackneyed scene where Mike tries to sell some booze to a bar and has Dave as a ringer test customer. The bar owner then points out how overused this ploy is and calls them out on it. This ends up setting the tone for the rest of the film as, for the next 90-or-so minutes, every potentially “filmy” moment that crops up gets its guts ripped out for all to see. Rather than bending to every single rom-com trend, it actually takes time out to stop and think about what the hell they’re doing beforehand. Hell, they directly try to take a page out of Wedding Crashers’ book, only for Dave to point out that, in the ‘real’ world, things don’t work that way. In a genre that is so plagued by this feeling of followship, seeing a film willing to say “Um, yeah, this is kind of stupid” will never not be welcome. This film is somewhat based on the real-life story of the Stangle brothers, meaning that the whole Craiglist hunting for dates thing is accurate, and stuff like this makes that a lot easier to vibe with because the film itself is trying more for realism. I even liked how they handled showing how the Stangles usually are at parties, showing both the good and the bad that they get up to.

Then again, it still falls for two of the bigger rom-com clich├ęs: A liar is revealed, and the main couple(s) nearly break up at the start of the third act. I sigh as I’m writing this, but in all honesty, this film even manages to handle those aspects well. The entire plot is based around people lying, so the moment when the lie is outed is kind of inevitable, but this film handles in probably the best way possible. In most cases, the partner of the character who lied will just throw all the development of their relationship out the window, under the notion that “it was all a lie”. This film, again, says no and keeps in mind the genuine development that has occurred between the characters; namely, Dave and Alice. Dave, upon learning about Alice’s backstory and her ultimate reason for going along with the ruse, is sympathetic towards her and sticks it out through that. It’s only when she does something actually wrong, and quite disastrously wrong at that, that the third-act break-up happens. As for said break-up, this is aided by how we forgo the typical mournful montage set to sappy music and instead we get our four mains all admit that, in their different ways, they all fucked up. Not only that, their reasoning for exactly why they believe they fucked up shows a lot more heart than these sorts of bro-comedies usually allow themselves. Hell, in stark contrast to Wedding Ringer, the Stangles always keep their hearts in the right place and, even in their dumber moments, the sense that they truly want what is best for their sister is never swayed.

Well, enough character examination, let’s get into the dick jokes. Now, what’s interesting about this film is that it doesn’t go down the same line-o-rama path that a lot of other comedies have of late. At least, not entirely. There are scenes where such things happen as is shown in the end-credits blooper reel (which actually manages to save one of the more awkward comedic moments through Efron’s reactions, so be sure to stick around for it), but otherwise there feels like there is a definite path to what’s going on beyond just rattling off pop culture-referencing comparisons. I say that because, at times, this film gets more than a little insane. I mean, the massage scene… what in the holy hell? It’s not even that weird in concept, as it involves a character getting a ‘special massage’, but the way it’s realized on screen complete with some rather unnerving close-ups on the character’s face makes for unmitigated mindfrag material. This film nudges real, dirty and sweet all at the same time with its comedic track record, and coming from the guys who wrote the Bad Neighbours movies none of the above is surprising, but this whole sequence ventures into near-Pan territory in terms of reaction. Except this time, I’m not angrily thinking about questioning the guy who sold the sports drink I brought in with me; instead, it fits in a lot more with the general feel of the film, yet still smacks you in the face when it happens. It then gets mashed together with a sub-plot involving the Stangles’ cousin Terry (Alice Wetterlund), and while the whole ‘bisexual = can and will fuck anyone’ trope is extremely irksome, it’s hard to get mad at the onslaught of reactions that Mike gives during all of this. Yeah, Devine’s mugging is annoying, but it is still put to really good use in this sequence.

All in all, have to admit, I’m very pleasantly surprised with this one. The acting is solid, the writing makes a habit of bucking dumb film trends while (mostly) delivering on the comedy, and even though I could rail on the audio mixing of this thing (yeah, minor point, but this still has some of the most awkward ADR I’ve seen in a while), the overall production made for a very fun film. If you’re a fan of the kind of films Point Grey Productions churns out, or just like Zac Efron’s new on-screen persona, then definitely check this one out. It ranks higher than Eddie The Eagle, as the visceral “what the hell am I watching?” reaction to the whole massage sequence hit a lot harder than that film’s entire vibe of cheesy-to-the-point-of-near-physical-illness. However, as much as I love this film’s approach to the rom-com genre, it still falls short of the almost clockwork efficiency that went into Steve Jobs. Yeah, it may be about as historically accurate, but it does so with a lot more precision.

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