RogerBW's Blog

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates 17 April 2019

2016 comedy with romantic elements, dir. Jake Szymanski, Zac Efron, Adam DeVine, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza: IMDb / allmovie. Manchild brothers Mike and Dave are told that they can't come to their sister's wedding unless they bring dates (to calm them down and stop them hitting on other women). Not knowing any women, they advertise. Alice and Tatiana, who are just as messed up but in different ways, decide that a free trip to Hawaii is worth a few days of good behaviour…

I generally have a low tolerance for manchild films. The usual pattern is that the manchild, the overgrown kid who never bothered to learn anything like responsibility, is the audience identification figure; they get the girl (who is noble, perfect and infinitely forbearing) without having to give up the junk food diet and all-day video game sessions. But this film isn't like that; the men are distinctly unsympathetic, the women are allowed for a change to be just as bad as the men, and all of them are going to have to grow up a bit by the end.

I'm really sorry that I got us fired. I'm sort of surprised that it didn't happen sooner, but I'm still really sorry.

And all right, I saw this because I reckoned Aubrey Plaza would at least be watchable. Which she is.

The film's trying to disguise itself as a bad-taste comedy like The Hangover or Bridesmaids, and I think that's why it got a relatively poor reception: people who want grossout jokes will be disappointed. There are plenty of comic moments, certainly, but the writers have managed to do that rare thing in comedy of making the funny events flow from the personalities of the people involved, rather than bending the personalities to make the characters do funny things.

Adam DeVine, as Mike, has the sort of unfinished and unlined face that I associate with gym teachers and serial killers, the sort of person who's never been troubled by the idea that the feelings other people claim to have might be in any way important. It's a perfect face for the part but it makes him even less sympathetic than the script already does. The other principals are decent, with Plaza the obvious stand-out slightly wasted in her secondary role; many of the supporting players are apparently well-known comedians, but the only one who struck me was Alice Wetterlund playing Bisexual Cousin Terry with a bit of a Hannah Hart look.

This isn't about how the men "get" the women, and it's not about how the women "get" the men; in fact there are surprisingly subtle things being said here about how confining gender roles and expectations can be for all sides.

I don't want to stop, like, being us, but I think occasionally, we should think about how we make other people feel.

The comedy is never subtle, but it also manages to avoid the tedious bodily-fluids and crotch-injury incidents that are the usual lazy scriptwriter's short-cut to laughter. The plot is largely predictable. But the standout element here is the characterisation; even when these people were being terrible, I still liked them and cared about them.

Recommended by MaryAnn Johanson.

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