It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” confuses repetitive raunchiness with daring humor. It hammers us over the head with the same handful of jokes in hopes of beating us into submission. And it strains the screen appeal of a group of actors who normally are enormously likable.
The film marks the feature-directing debut of Jake Szymanski, who previously directed several segments for “Saturday Night Live” and online shorts for Funny or Die. He shows some strong instincts at the start as he introduces these characters and sets up this world, but has trouble maintaining the same uproarious energy level for the duration of the film. The script from Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, co-writers of the similarly no-holds-barred “Neighbors” movies, is loosely based on a series of actual events, which also inspired a book. But very little here resembles anyone or anything you’d recognize in real life.
Brothers Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave Stangle (Zac Efron) really did take out a Craigslist ad to find dates to their cousin’s wedding, and that ad really did go viral. Here, the cousin has been changed to a younger sister, Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard), and the wedding has been moved to Hawaii (to up the levels of expectation, ostensibly). In a well-staged opening sequence, which contrasts what Mike and Dave recall as delightful family bonding time with the disastrous reality, we learn why everyone wants these guys to bring nice girls to the wedding. They’re a train wreck, albeit a well-intentioned one.
They meet their matches in trashy best friends Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) and Alice (Anna Kendrick), who are just as much of a hot mess. Tatiana is the wild-eyed, trash-talking alpha of the duo, while Alice is the sweetly perky yet aimless sidekick still reeling from being jilted at the altar. (We’re forced to watch along with Alice as she tortures herself with multiple viewings of the iPhone video of that tragic moment; the repetitious nature of this early, unfunny gag is a harbinger of things to come.)