Thursday, July 21, 2016

Film Review: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

Sexuality/Nudity Objectionable
Violence Acceptable
Vulgarity Objectionable
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Objectionable

I have noted that I have a fairly high tolerance for raunchiness in my movies, maybe beyond what is healthy.  Or rather I can look past a lot of the raunchy parts if there is greater excellence in the rest of the movie.  I'm a huge fan of Ted, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Wedding Crashers.  I am forgiving of the immorality presented if the movie presents you with a way out of it, as I think the above movies do.  But for movies that revel in their immoral excesses without any redemptive qualities like Ted 2, The Pineapple Express, or Animal House: I loathe these films.  These movies embrace a cynical hedonism that is joyless and corrosive.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is somewhere in between.

The story centers around two "fratboyesque" brothers:  The dumb Mike (Adam Devine) and his less dumb but hotter little brother Dave (Zac Efron).  These two consistently go over the top in the party ways at family functions and horrible things occur.  But when their baby sister Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard) is getting married in Hawaii, their parents (Stephen Root and Stephanie Faracy) force them to bring wedding dates to keep them out of trouble.  The two go to Craigslist asking for women interested in an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii, so the post goes viral, catching the attention of our two female leads.  Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) are a couple of skanky, drunk, pothead screwups.  Alice was recently jilted at the altar and Tatiana has been helping her forget.  The two put on a respectable facade and trick the boys into taking them to Hawaii.  Wackiness ensues.

One of the things that keeps this movie from descending into awfulness is the cast.  Stars Efron and Kendrick are both charming in their imbecility to the point where it almost comes off like child-like innocence.  I say "almost" because their scenes are often peppered with drug and sex jokes (as is the rest of the movie).  But they both have some wonderfully funny moments individually and together.  Plaza also brings her A-game with a wonderfully wry performance.  But Devine is the one who really takes most of the spotlight.  If this movie catches on with people, Devine could become a star.  He does go too over-the-top at times, but he does it with the enthusiasm of a young Chris Farley.  Everything is extreme with him.  He says lines like "Turtle Power" with such dramatic conviction that I burst out laughing.

The movie is also fun to look at.  Director Jake Szymanski takes full advantage of all of his locations, whether it is the big city or the lush Hawaiian landscape.  Every place you see is a place that you would love to visit.  This actually is a very subtle thing that too few comedy directors understand, but it draws you into the world and thus closer to the characters.  As a result I was invested in what the journey of these four idiots and this led to some genuine belly laughs.

And while the jokes are pretty funny, it feels all a bit derivative.  Throughout the first half of the movie, my mind kept wandering to Wedding Crashers.  I could clearly see the homages being made.  But then the characters actually mention the movie Wedding Crashers.  This was a mistake because if you are basing your film heavily off of a superior film, it is not a good idea to directly draw the audiences attention to it.

On a side note, this movie does a great job using race well.  Jeannie's fiancee Eric (Sam Richardson) is black.  But I was struck by how much race was a non-factor to anything in the story.  Sam is just a man who loves his fiancee.  And his family and Jeannie's family mingle merge person to person.  This was quite refreshing.  That isn't to say that race never comes up.  There are some jokes in that direction, but it never feels like a bigger deal than it is.

This now brings us to the immorality presented in the film.

The sexual ethics are awful.  Perhaps it was because I never watched Sex and the City, but graphic comedic sex talk from women has never grabbed me.  I'm not saying it can't be funny, but it feels too much like they are trying to hard to sound like piggish men.  On top of this there is full frontal nudity and lots of sexuality on screen.

This movie also presents an example of what I call the "Gay Pass."  This is when a gay person does something in a movie or TV show that is not villainous for them but would be villainous for a straight person.  The bi-sexual Terry (Alice Wetterlund) bribes Tatiana to perform a sex act on her for Rihanna tickets.  If Terry had been a man, the only way the viewer would look at him from that point on would be as a villain.  But in this movie, she is viewed at the least indifferent on this.  (For more examples of the Gay Pass, see shows like Glee).

I am also one who finds the casual drug culture particularly repugnant.  I see first-hand how soul-sucking it is to young people.  Marijuana and ecstasy are used commonly and for comedic effect in this film, but all that did was get me to like the characters less and less.

The movie tries to pull the characters out of this spiral a little bit.  There is some realization about the destructiveness of casual sexual encounters (it almost disrupts the marriage) and that drugs can lead to decisions that hurt others.  But it only feels like a part-way epiphany.  The characters feel bad that something bad happened, but they don't really get that their behavior, particularly the sex and the drugs, is the genesis of these tragedies.

The movie had the opportunity to pull itself out of the muck in the third act, but it only got one toe out.  And what should have been a more likable movie is too obscured by the filth in which it wallowed.

2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars.

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