Two Drink Minimum is a comedy-based column by Vague Visages writer Jacob Oller.
What is parodied to some extent in The Hangover is tucked away, stuffed into various closets and buried deep, deep down in Jake Szymanski’s Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, a film with a title longer than most of its jokes. The sub-primal urge to be a self-centered prick can be funny because, well, we know it’s kosher to keep that sequestered into the darkest part of our debauched fantasies. That urge is the antithesis of society and the source this movie springs from — that Fertile Crescent would’ve become another arid party zone with Mike and Dave around.
Instead of skipping over the party and dealing with the aftermath like their hungover compatriots, Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave Stangle (Zac Efron) embrace the cheap bacchanal with a healthy dose of subterfuge and superficial self-improvement — that is until their little sister (the breakout Sugar Lyn Beard) gets married. Their partners in all of the above are party animals Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza), who’ve conned their way into the brothers’ hearts for the free trip to Hawaii. They’re a little worse people than either Mike or Dave, so they have to be a little smarter about getting chosen. Little do they know that these guys also have a predilection for Andrew W.K.-like partying, so everyone should just be themselves, learn nothing and have a good time. Since they don’t, that’s the plot.
It’s the makings of a dumb movie potentially as self-centered and vapid as its protagonists, or as cheap and ineffectual as its design, but somehow it all mostly works. It’s not that Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates overcomes its shortcomings, but dives into them headlong with the zeal and shamelessness of a naked toddler waving its dirty diaper above its head. There’s purity in its equal-opportunity perversion. Kendrick’s sweet, vulnerable drunk pairs off hilariously well with committed character actor Efron’s constant undercuts of his own Grecian beauty. While Devine’s tantrum-prone frat boy becomes grating at high frequencies, his sloppy dregs (caused in part by Plaza’s comedic femme fatale) are satisfyingly hopeless. Kumail Nanjiani has had a stellar year of comedy cameos (with the best line in Central Intelligence) and Mike and Dave’s movie-stealer with Beard, another impressively metered character actor, is just another notch in his belt. It’s not just refreshing that both sides of the couplings are gross egocentricists, it’s necessary.
Whereas something like The Hangover has two terrible female characters, a golden stripper and a shrill girlfriend (and a team of good-hearted guys that grow and learn alongside the dick jokes), Mike and Dave have two terrible girls and two terrible guys that don’t get much better over the course of the film. But they address their own failings like the 20-somethings they are meant to be: badly. Their conversations are as light as the comedy, but the self-awareness and fun-poking at the characters’ self-doubt about how stupid they really are informs an entire movie propped up on the same brash compensation.
It’s not a dumb movie pretending to be smart, it’s a dumb movie worried about (yet still embracing) its own base stupidity. It’s seemed difficult for gross-out comedies to avoid the pitfalls of race and sex-based groaners populating the somehow still regularly occurring Adam Sandler films (aside from the Neighbors franchise), but Mike and Dave seem to have threaded the comedic needle. Though it suffers from some of the recent comedy trends of Apatowian ad nauseum actor riffing and sloppy repetition, there’s still a knowing bit of cleverness trolling beneath it all. Add in some great slapstick, playful callbacks and, hey, even some creative formal choices (a Jaws-like Dolly zoom when Kendrick has a wedding flashback), and you’ve got yourself a completely enjoyable lowbrow bit of nonsense.
From AAA TV to Z-movies, Oklahoma City-based critic Jacob Oller (@JacobOller) would like to bring the world together through entertainment, writing about it for publications like The Guardian, the Oklahoma Gazette, and his own blog. He’s a decent impressionist, semi-decent karaoke participant, and terrible dancer, although you’ll have to get a few drinks in him first.