Hmmm, what do we make of men writing all the R-rated female-centric comedies these days? Look at Neighbors 2, the upcoming Bad Moms, and this week’s Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, all written by teams of men, with not a single vagina among them. On one hand, it’s great that male writers think that writing movies for women is a worthwhile pursuit and are able to at least try to think of women outside the usual boxes. On the other hand, the guys’ projects make for fewer opportunities for their female counterparts, and sometimes the men get women disastrously wrong. (Remember The Sweetest Thing? You’re lucky if you don’t.) All I know is, the hilarious current comedy belongs to its women even though it’s named after the male characters, and it’s a prime example of why men should be given license to try their hand at these.
The story is loosely based on Mike and Dave Stangle, two real-life brothers from Albany who took out a Craigslist ad for dates to their cousin’s wedding and saw it go viral thanks to their centaur photos and jokes about creepy uncles. Here, Mike and Dave (Adam DeVine and Zac Efron) are part-time liquor salesmen and full-time horndog bachelors whose habit of ruining parties gets them barred from the wedding of their younger sister Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard) in Hawaii unless they show up with dates. Dave wonders, “Taking a date to a wedding? Is that even legal?” Enter Tatiana and Alice (Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick), hard-drinking pothead party girls who have appropriately nicknamed themselves “T and A.” Seeing the ad and sensing an opportunity for a free trip to Hawaii, the girls pretend to be sensible professional women well enough to fool the brothers into asking them along — describing her fake job as a schoolteacher, Tatiana says, “The key to teaching children is repetition. You’d be surprised how stupid they are.” Once everybody’s in Oahu, chaos and a herd of horses break loose.
If you’ve only seen Kendrick in her mainstream films so far, you may be shocked to find that her sense of humor is far filthier than you might have imagined. (Though if you’ve seen her in Joe Swanberg movies like Digging for Fire and Happy Christmas, you’ll be less surprised.) Maybe the character of a woman who dances around naked in a field while on Ecstasy isn’t the easiest fit for her, but it allows her to launch into some stellar dirty riffs like Alice’s critique of the porn film she’s watching (“It’s called Cockbusters. Why would they want to bust the cocks? That’s so sad!”) or when she asks the bride whether she’s ever pretended to be a prostitute in Las Vegas and taken the deception really far, which Alice seems to think all women do at some point.
She’s only part of a quartet of actors who are both terribly attractive and excellent comic ad-libbers, even if DeVine is a bit too cartoonish for me. (They’re also musically talented, so you won’t be caught off guard when they burst into song and dance for the wedding.) Efron once again dominates the proceedings on the male side, squeezing a solid minute’s worth of laughs out of a childhood anecdote involving the word “moist.” Meanwhile, Plaza gets the lion’s share of physical comedy as Tatiana goes gay for pay — and by “pay” I mean Rihanna concert tickets — with Mike and Dave’s butch cousin (Alice Wetterlund) and ends the movie with a logistically impossible sex scene. The sex- and drug-laced hijinks aside, writers Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, who wrote the original Neighbors and had a hand in the sequel, apply some emotional underpinnings to these four people’s acting out.
It’s not just them, either. Refreshingly, the bride gets in on the shenanigans, and Beard, a former Canadian radio DJ and cartoon voice actor, steals a lot of scenes from her famous co-stars, especially the movie’s funniest single set piece when Jeanie receives a massage with a tantric happy ending courtesy of Alice and a hotel masseur (Kumail Nanjiani). Speaking of refreshing, how great is it that an Indian guy gets to be the sex god, especially one as funny as Nanjiani? The comic riches here are enough to make this movie a fairer version of Wedding Crashers for our decade, a recommendation you can take all the way to the altar.
[box_info]Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
Starring Adam DeVine, Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick, and Aubrey Plaza. Directed by Jake Szymanski. Written by Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien. Rated R.[/box_info]