In my mind, there are two different types of raunchy comedies. There’s the kind that have a defined set of stakes and rules, and although things certainly get extreme, there is a certain goal to keep the film moving. A good example of this would be Pitch Perfect (2012). And then there’s the kind where nothing matters and the only purpose is to push as many boundaries as possible. A good example of this would be Dirty Grandpa (2016).
The reason I bring this up is that Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates meets somewhere in between. There are a couple quick and simple goals, but the movie seems to keep getting distracted. Perhaps this is because Mike and Dave lifted two actors from both Pitch Perfect (Anna Kendrick and Adam Devine) and Dirty Grandpa (Zac Efron and Aubrey Plaza).
Loosely based on a true story, the movie stars two brothers, Mike and Dave Stangle (Devine and Efron) who need wedding dates. Rather, they are awful, awful human beings and their family insists they get dates in order to keep them in line and stop them from ruining their sister’s wedding. Attempting to find two ‘nice’ girls, they go to Craigslist. That’s essentially where the true story starts and ends. The ad goes viral and attracts two friends (Kendrick and Plaza) to manipulate the brothers into taking them to Hawaii.
In theory, this should be the perfect leading cast. Kendrick and Efron can both be very funny, but they’re not traditionally comedic actors. However, when they are paired with two comedians, Devine and Plaza, there is a perfect comedic double date that is an absolute joy to watch. The problem is that they are perhaps too good for this movie. Or maybe the filmmakers trusted them too much. Nearly the entire film feels like its improvised in one way or another. And while this improv provides some of the movie’s funniest jokes, it also completely ruins the tone.
What happens is that because the cast is constantly making jokes, all of the stakes disappear. In any moment that needs to be taken seriously, there is just too much ad-libbing. It’s obvious that the movie was a lot of fun to make, but while each individual day of shooting yields funny results, the overall impression is one of disorganization.
This becomes especially apparent whenever the film is forced to shift from one subject to another. Instead of a clear transition, the characters just abruptly mention the next plot point. It’s a move that feels like it’s based in improv, but really comes from shooting too much footage. Because there were so many jokes (and deleted scenes, no doubt), these transitions were used to cover the tracks. But what is done to build pace only ends up making the movie seem sloppy.
This is exemplified in the movie’s awkward sound editing and mixing. There are numerous instances where it’s obvious that there has been dubbing, or even just poor room tone. Considering the star power behind the film, it’s a shame that the production is consistently sloppy. Not to mention, how hard is it to create the sound of an audience cheering without resorting to Apple Loops?
Another result of shooting too much is that the story’s structure gets muddled. The movie is funny enough to keep watching, but not well made enough to keep the audience invested. The main characters are all awful people, and without a coherent structure it’s really hard to sympathize. What’s ironic is that the actors and filmmakers have the same problem the Stangle brothers have: they are constantly trying to do too much, and don’t have someone to reign them in.