Sunday, July 17, 2016

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

Starring: Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza
Rated R for Crude Sexual Content, Language Throughout, Drug Use and Some Graphic Nudity

There is a scene in this movie that I want to tell you about.  As everyone who has seen the trailer knows, the four protagonists and the bride and groom go on an ATV ride where the bride gets creamed by an ATV wheel and thus half her face looks like road kill.  After spending 30 seconds listening to her and the high strung maid of honor worry about how her face looks, Adam Devine says it looks horrible.  And he says it again, this time in a different way.  And he says it again, in a different way.  Then Zac Efron comes on and spends another 30 seconds trying to make her feel better.  This whole scene, which is essentially a single joke, takes up about 2 minutes.

Does anyone actually find this schtick funny?  I like good improv, but when it’s done by someone who doesn’t know what they are doing, it’s a form of inhuman torture.  To make sure we laugh, the actors get hyper, but at the same time they act disaffected (a la “What If”) to appear like they’re not trying.  They over emphasize the stutters, the stammers, and what not, in an attempt to seem more normal, but with their voices and body language exaggerated to the degree where a clown would seem over-the-top, the joke is ruined.  And since this happens non-stop for 90 minutes, watching the film is pure agony.

“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” is another example of what I call the “Seth Rogen Influence.”  It’s where the actors riff endlessly on every single joke.  For example, when the two brothers are accused of amping each other up at family gatherings, the two deny it.  And they escalate to the point where they are just about screaming.  As a short bit, it could be funny.  But it belabors the joke until it’s no longer funny.  And since Seth Rogen is the lout who got made this shit popular, I blame it on him.  It’s not funny when he does it, and it’s not funny when anyone here does it.

Mike and Dave are two brothers whose co-dependency and tendency to act out makes them a liability at family gatherings.  So for her sister’s wedding, they are instructed to find wedding dates that will keep them in line.  By accident (or actually not), they run into two girls they find suitable.  But they’re actually not nice girls.  They’re party animals who are looking for a free vacation to Hawai’i.  Naturally things get way out of control very quickly.

This is a great concept for a comedy.  The film is based on a true story from what I gather, although I highly doubt it.  There isn’t one single character who acts like a human being in this film.  The problem is that there is no screenplay and no direction.  The director just points the camera in the right direction and says go.  But the jokes aren’t funny the first time and they certainly aren’t funny the second time.  Or the fifth time.  Sadly, the director doesn’t seem to get the concept of humor.

Even worse, the actors are trying way too hard.  Everyone knows that in order for a joke to work, you can’t reach for it.  Getting shrill and scrunching up your face isn’t funny.  Timing, reaction shots, and most importantly, witty dialogue, are.  The jokes here aren’t even jokes.  They’re just random words and phrases that are shouted out at random.  There is no wit here.  There is no truth to anything anyone says.  It’s all garbage.

I know that Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza can be funny.  Adam Devine can also be funny in small doses.  But every actor, no matter how good, needs direction.  They need someone who can tell them what is and is not funny and to guide the story.  That doesn’t happen here.

As strange as it is to say, Wes Anderson is looking better and better by the minute.

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