Maybe it’s too easy. Get some funny actors together, give them a premise and let them improvise the filthiest material they can come up with. The process has worked just often enough that too many filmmakers seem to think they can do it.
Despite its talented cast and hard-R enthusiasm, “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” unequivocally proves this is not the case. Most of its humor is as clumsy and generic as the title.
The script is (somewhat loosely) based on the true story of hard-partying brothers Mike and Dave Stangle (played by Adam Devine and Zac Efron), who used Craigslist to search for wedding dates in 2013. In the movie version, they end up with Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza), unemployed slackers with a perpetual buzz and a need for a vacation. They put on a “nice girl” show long enough to snag the tickets to Hawaii, only to reveal their true selves as soon as the free booze starts flowing.
When a joke in “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” lands, it can be attributed to the four leads. The other actors aren’t used all that well, and no one gets much help from the filmmakers.
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Screenwriters Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien wrote “Neighbors,” a much funnier movie that gave Efron his current cachet as a hilarious hunk. Efron and Kendrick are charismatic enough to salvage whatever gets thrown at them. It doesn’t hurt that Dave and Alice are fairly likable, at least compared to Mike and Tatiana, who instigate most of the terrible behavior that causes so much trouble. Devine and Plaza don’t quite have the comedic spark of their co-stars, at least not together — that elusive onscreen chemistry just isn’t there.
Director Jake Szymanski is a veteran of “Saturday Night Live” and “Funny or Die Presents,” and “Mike and Dave” is full of sketchlike scenes that drag on too long. If a gag is funny for 20 seconds, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be funny for five minutes, but that’s how movies like this tend to operate. You push the material to the breaking point, then go a little further just to see what will happen.
In the right hands, this leads to hysterical laughter and amazement at how enjoyable some stupid raunchfest turned out to be. In the wrong hands, it leads to boredom and disappointment. Good comedy just isn’t that easy.
Read more of Loey Lockerby’s reviews at suchacritic.com.
‘Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates’
Rated R. Time: 1:38