PLOT Two hard-partying brothers meet their match in a couple of wild women.
CAST Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick, Adam Devine, Aubrey Plaza
RATED R (crude humor, sexual scenes and language)
BOTTOM LINE A pleasant surprise thanks to a great cast and some inspired characters. It’s rude, boisterous fun.
It sounds so implausible that even a sitcom writer from the 1970s would have chucked the idea, yet “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” is based on a true story. In 2013, the Stangle brothers posted a Craigslist ad seeking women to help them “stay under control” at a wedding. Viral fame followed, then a book deal — and now, Mike and Dave Stangle are being played by Adam Devine and Zac Efron, respectively, in a Hollywood rom-com.
“Stay under control” — that line has an old-fashioned ring, doesn’t it? Women, who have been domesticating overgrown boys in the movies for years, might be pleased that screenwriters Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, both of “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,” throw the Stangles a modern curve: Their seemingly respectable dates are actually two hard-partying trainwrecks, Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) and Alice (Anna Kendrick), who call themselves “T&A.” At the wedding of their sister, Jeanie Stangle (Sugar Lyn Beard), on the usually romantic island of Hawaii, the brothers realize they’ve met their match.
“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” may not rise to the level of Shakespeare, but it’s a pleasant surprise of a comedy in which four shrews — metaphorically speaking — tame each other. What makes it work are the actors, perfectly cast in nearly every role, and their energy is infectious. Largely improvised under the direction of first-timer Jake Szymanski, a veteran of the website FunnyOrDie, “Mike and Dave” is a rude, boisterous, good-natured romp.
Although the movie is essentially a series of wacky what-ifs, the most inspired ideas are the characters themselves. Devine’s excitable Mike and Efron’s slightly dopey Dave (whose dream is to draw comics about alcoholic beverages) are nicely balanced by Plaza’s libidinous Tatiana and Kendrick’s emotionally unstable Alice (once left at the altar, she’s not great at weddings). Jeanie’s plain-vanilla fiance, Eric, is played by Sam Richardson, a black actor in a notable example of colorblind casting. The show-stealer, though, is Alice Wetterlund as Terry, a sexually ambiguous lady-killer with a pompadour.
These modern touches, and a refreshing absence of spiteful humor, make “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” feel almost wholesome despite its R rating (much deserved, by the way). Stay for the Efron-Devine rap track, “Stang Life,” during the credits.