Jake Szymanski’s Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates opens with an all but explicit promise that it will be The Hangover: Part IV—slow-motion hijinks and mayhem, alcohol and Adderall, tongues and buns. If the proceedings instantly carry a less dreadful promise than expected, it’s likely because Adam DeVine has quickly become pop culture’s preeminent raw, throbbing id, and the prospect of a debauched romp under his devilish grin is certainly preferable to watching Ed Helms grimace his way down to new, horrifying depths.
So, if the film had simply picked up the well-worn baton and rehashed what came before it, Mike and Dave could’ve still conceivably been a worthy time-suck. But instead, the film, brought to you by the makers of Neighbors and its superior Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, makes any number of miraculously right moves across its 98-minute running time. And if it’s ultimately too slapdash to be the minor comedy classic it occasionally feels like it almost could’ve been, the film’s fresh looseness doesn’t go unnoticed.
Mike (DeVine) and Dave (Zac Efron) are brothers and occupational partners who sell cases of liquor to bars, establishing them as being incapable of separating business and pleasure. After a long string of family gathering disasters (the events depicted in the opening credits), the two siblings are informed by their frazzled father (Stephen Root, the cast’s sole underutilized asset) that they have to bring dates to their kid sister’s impending wedding in Hawaii, so they will at least be far less likely to get into trouble. Though the plan doesn’t make a lick of sense in retrospect, they take their mission seriously, tossing up a Craigslist ad promising a free trip to their sibling’s destination nuptials. It quickly goes viral, but most of their responses come from idiots and party girls (and one cross-dressing wild card). So when Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) run into the two (well, when the latter is hit by a taxi and saved by Mike), they seem like pretty hot prospects: two professional, demure girls who won’t ruffle Mom and Dad’s feathers.
Much like with Nicholas Stoller’s Neighbors 2, Mike and Dave’s obvious ace in the hole is its commitment to gender parity. The film wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test or anything, but Alice and Tatiana eventually reveal themselves to be in every regard Mike and Dave’s equals, and the filmmakers give them as many punchlines as the title players, if not more. Ditto Sugar Lyn Beard as the boys’ high-strung but increasingly sensation-thirsty sister. (Efron is actually in a pretty distant fifth place in delivering the yuks, mainly serving as the film’s straight man-cum-snake-hipped eye candy, which of course adds another layer of brah-style feminism to the mix.)
But even more welcome than that, and what truly distinguishes the film from the bottom-feeding Hangover series, is how much of the comedy emerges not from what sort of horror and mortification the characters are subjected to, but rather how they’re alternately edified, delighted, or enriched by their situations. Mike and Dave isn’t a parade of perverted pitfalls; it’s a series of mainly sex-positive adventures (with or without the “mis-” prefix). Go figure that a film about two doofuses would be borderline marriage material.