If I hadn’t researched it when I got home, I never would’ve guessed Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates was based on someone’s life rights. Subsequent research reveals that in 2013, Albany bros and actual brothers Mike and Dave Stangle wrote a Craigslist ad seeking dates for their cousin’s wedding. The ad, which was medium funny in a basic bro best-man-speech kind of way (“You should be attractive or our aunts will judge you, but not TOO attractive or one of our uncles might grope you”) made Best of Craigslist and went viral enough to land them on Today, Good Morning America, and Anderson Cooper. They managed to parlay that into a book deal with Simon & Schuster. (“Two reckless but lovable all-American bros make a strong case for maturing slowly through their outrageous yet enlightening misadventures across this great country of ours,” goes the jacket copy)
Meanwhile, screenwriters Andrew Cohen and Brendan O’Brien (Neighbors) turned the Stangles’ story into a seven-figure script deal. All that from a silly ad? Who could’ve imagined? Well, the Stangles themselves, if you read the original ad:
Dave, Mike… What’s in it for me? […]
-Royalties once our night’s story is developed into a romantic comedy*
*if this happens (we estimate the chances at 85%) we refuse the right to let Ashton Kutcher play either of our characters, however, we will consider him for a supporting role.
Ha ha! That’s funny, because I too have heard jokes.
Anyway, I say I was surprised to discover this depth of backstory, because the movie feels like a hijinks reel of 10 other wedding comedies. With the benefit of hindsight, it might be worth pointing out that the entirety of this seven-figure “story” seems to consist of “two guys put up a funny ad.”
That’s not much of an arc, a problem Cohen and O’Brien attempted to solve with a “what if”: What if the boys ended up finding dates who were “even bigger messes” than they were? (In real life, “Dave and Mike, despite receiving thousands of applications, ultimately took a pair of ‘hometown gals’ who they’ve known since childhood.”)
Which raises an important question: What does being “a mess” look like, exactly? Because in the world of Mike and Dave, it seems to consist of “conventionally attractive person in loud clothing.” Oh jeez, here comes that male model in a Hawaiian shirt again, get therapy, dude.
This Williams-Sonoma catalog conception of “badness” is not only dull, but kind of alienating. And adding female versions only magnifies the problem.
What remains most true to the post on which it was based is the movie’s ability to deflect even the most fleeting earnest feelings with generic jokes. Here’s a snip from a New York magazine report on the Stangles selling their life rights:
“What we can tell you is that Rupert Murdoch personally landed his helicopter on our front lawn with a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist,” the brothers told us. “We thought he was going to buy our life rights right there on the spot, but when he opened up the briefcase the only thing inside was a sleeve of Ritz crackers. That man is a tough negotiator.”
Ha ha, you kidders! No, but seriously: Who are you, other than good time party bros? How did it feel to sell your life rights based on a Craigslist ad, and what happened in your lives to make you so oddly confident about being able to do so? And for the love of God, don’t answer by quoting Austin Powers.
That’s the central issue of this movie, that there are two guys with an interesting story (I think?) who’d rather repeat Seinfeld jokes than ever risk being funny at their own expense. It’s essentially a movie about dudes imitating movies. New from Touchstone! The incredible true story of that guy in your office who says “My wife” in a Borat voice!
If you think I’m judging the subjects and not the movie, I’m not, trust me, the movie is exactly like that. Anyone who’s seen more than three successful comedies of the past 10 years could predict half the gags in this one: Bride hurts her face before the big wedding. Slow-motion “cool guy” walk set to music. Characters tripping on drugs. Up-and-coming comedy actor cameos in silly wig. Extended movie reference. “Gross out” gag involving surprising nudity (and merkins!). Blooper reel during the credits. I only Googled it because I wondered if this movie had been written by an algorithm.
I get the sense that movie studios think that if you just put funny people next to each other, comedy happens. Look, Anna Kendrick is a fine actress, Aubrey Plaza brings a finely-honed persona, and Adam Devine is a genius at extended, manic act outs†. But this movie is just generic hijinks and act outs in search of a joke. Which is a shame, because the dialogue is occasionally pretty sharp. It’s just not about anything.
The characters all seem to live in this consequence-free world of unexamined affluence, where you just jet off to Hawaii for a wedding and order thousands of dollars worth of room service and smash a TV in your room for fun and the biggest worry on your mind is whether the bride looks good in her pictures or whether the couple will get to go hot air ballooning on their honeymoon. If you want to do decadence, do decadence. Don’t just say “boys will be boys” and have everyone hug at the end.
Who are these characters? Girl Who Quotes Jurassic Park? Guy Who Wants To Draw? What makes them “wild and crazy,” other than the fact that you’ve styled them like they’re in a commercial for “Wild and Crazy” brand wine coolers? If you’re not going to tell me anything real about the characters, I just don’t care.
Vince Mancini is a writer, comedian, and podcaster. A graduate of Columbia’s non-fiction MFA program, his work has appeared on FilmDrunk, the UPROXX network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.
†That’s the part of the joke when the comedian makes faces and gets very animated to “act out” whatever situation he’s just described. Think Mitch Hedberg trying to angrily zip a tent after a fight with his girlfriend, but bigger.