If it’s true that every generation gets the “Wedding Crashers” it deserves, then millennials have finally gotten some definitive proof that they’re doing alright. Starting with a timeless premise — young people are stupid — and spinning it into a broad, crass, and relentlessly amusing mid-summer surprise, “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” may not be the first Apatow-era comedy about twentysomethings coming to grips with the fact that they won’t live forever (and it’s certainly not the deepest, as it lingers in your memory for about as long as a Snapchat), but it might just be one of the funniest.
Very, very loosely based on the true story of short-lived viral sensations Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Ye Mighty Zac Efron) Stangle, this delightful work of idiocy introduces the Brothers Dim through rose-colored shot glasses, as the opening credits take us through all the family events that these party animals supposedly elevated into legend. A few scenes later, director Jake Szymanski cleverly sets the record straight, as Mr. Stangle (Stephen Root) walks us through the truth of how all those incidents really went down. In short: Mike and Dave are lovable screw-ups at an age when everyone else has grown tired of their shtick. They’re nice guys with dumb grins and good hearts; they’re overgrown children, but they’re not pigs.
So when their younger sister Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard) insists that her siblings bring dates to her destination wedding — a preemptive attempt to stop them from ruining yet another Stangle family gathering — the edict is coming from a place of love. And when the Stangle brothers trawl the internet for dates by creating a ridiculous Craigslist ad (complete with an image of their heads photoshopped onto the bodies of centaurs), they’re just trying to make their sister happy.
And when the ad blows up and lands them on “The Wendy Williams Show” (as it did in real life), it’s that same sense of kindness that convinces the bros’ gender-swapped doppelgängers Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) that the Stangles are their easily exploitable tickets to a free weekend in Hawaii. They convince Mike and Dave that they’re “nice girls,” and the fortuitous foursome is off to “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” territory before you have time to sift through the gender politics.
That would appear to be intentional — “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” might share a star (and two inspired screenwriters) with “Neighbors 2,” but it has zero interest in making any sort of overt statement about the double standards between men and women. So far as this movie is concerned, the battle of the sexes has been declared a stale mate, with every aimless millennial just looking to game the system however they can. The prolonged charade with which Tatiana convinces Mike that she’s a teacher (not a bartender at a sexist sake joint) is a massive waste of time for everyone involved, us included.
“Mike and Dave” is hardly #woke as fuck — that’s hip, millennial speak for “enlightened,” for those not in the know — but it’s aimed at a generation for whom female characters aren’t believable as mere objects or plot points. One look at Plaza’s withering glare and it’s clear that Tatiana is nobody’s fool; nobody’s anything. When the film name-checks “Wedding Crashers,” it feels like a needless reminder that Vince Vaughn is a spokesman for a bygone cultural moment.
Director Jake Szymanski is nothing if not a product of the internet age — this is his first feature, and his previous credits include digital shorts like “Bat Fight with Will Ferrell,” “Red Bull Energy Douche,” and “Three Matthew McConaugheys and a Baby.” But his talent extends beyond parodying pop culture, as it turns out that he can orchestrate a traditional comic set piece with the best of them.
The film’s crudest (and funniest) sequence is pure Farrelly brothers, as Jeanie enjoys a very sensual massage courtesy of “Silicon Valley” star Kumail Nanjiani, whose recent “Central Intelligence” cameo was also the highlight of that movie. A number of other strong gags are laced throughout; Szymanski begins pumping them out rapid-fire when things really get cooking towards the end.
So while the story holds together about as well as you might expect in a movie adapted from a Craigslist ad, the sum is easy to forgive in light of so many great parts. Efron, who is growing into one of our most charming and reliable comic actors, preys on the same underlying sensitivity that made both of the “Neighbors” films so winsome.
Devine’s manic energy wears thin pretty fast, but his character is redeemed by the actor’s relentless self-deprecation — characters are constantly telling Mike that he’s human garbage compared to his god-like younger brother, and every shot across the bow earns a laugh.
Plaza doesn’t stray too far from her brand — Tatiana is unsurprisingly droll and cutthroat — but the actress continues to prove that she’s more than just her affectations, and her performance is backboned by a heartfelt riot of inner chaos and an uproarious talent for pratfalls (seriously, she has a gift). Kendrick has less to do as Plaza’s lovesick foil, but she rises to the occasion of every joke, and a late sequence involving ecstasy and a band of horses is as funny as anything she’s ever done.
Like everyone else in the movie, Alice has to grow up in her own way, and while “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” may not be a particularly convincing or memorable portrait of maturation, the fact that Kendrick’s character even has an arc is enough to make you believe that bro comedies are finally coming of age.
“Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates” opens in theaters on Friday.