The Buzz: Mike and Dave Need Better Comedy

Welcome to the Buzz in which we discuss comedies that will never be discussed again. We explore how the modern film comedies struggle to be memorable in this week’s release of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Then we look at one of the best movies from an underappreciated comic genius who is getting love from Netflix streaming. We also look forward to a movie that is coming out based on the premise of Harry Potter as a Neo-Nazi.

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Film: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates: There is a lack of visual filmmaking in mainstream comedies. You simply put a camera in position and shoot. Chaplin did this. The Marx Brothers did this. All the great comedies are devoid of upfront filmmaking. That’s because it easy to let the writing, jokes and prat falls take over. Not every comedian can be a Buster Keaton, Jacques Tati or Edgar Wright who uses cinema as a way to extract the laughs.

In more recent years mainstream American comedies have fallen into a hole of improvised one-liners leading to shot-reverse shot, the simplest and often times laziest form of filmmaking. Dubbed by Apatow produced DVDs as “line-o-ramas”, the filmmaker would leave the camera rolling as actors just throw out lines that are more and more ridiculous. And a lot of it is funny. But, it sticks with you the same way a horror film that relies on jump scares sticks with you. It is fast food with no nutrients.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates comes from that Apatow school of thought, following the Apatow produced formula more than any film that was not actually produced by the man himself (Jonathan Levine who produced the film is a close associate with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg who are part of the Apatow stable). The result is a mismanaged comedy that offers sporadic laughs that does not warrant paying theater prices to go to.

It is upsetting because everyone involved in this movie are so game to be in this film. Zac Efron and Adam DeVine play two man-child, dude-bros (Dave and Mike respectively), whose party antics have led to their sister (Sugar Lyn Beard) to place the edict that if they wanted to attend their wedding they must bring acceptable wedding dates that could reign in their antics. This is familiar stuff within the genre of recent man-child comedies; a woman comes in to help the child become a man.

The twist, from the two writers of Neighbors, is that the dates they find just happen to be as emotionally immature and wild as they are (Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza). The two ladies partake in drugs, alcohol and promiscuous sex to hide their emotional deficits just as much as the men do (yay equality).

The actors all do their part to pump up the underserving material. At this point Zac Efron playing the dude-bro with a heart of gold is like Lebron James doing a simple lay-up. Efron is consistently good as straight man to the wilder side kick who is not as handsome as he is. And DeVine is the perfect side kick; high energy who can oscillate between talking to exasperated yelling. Their paring of Kendrick and Plaza is appealing. Plaza continues her dry wit and Kendrick gives another performance in which she commits 110% but there is never anything appealing about the ultimate goal of getting these pairs together.

First time feature director, Jake Szymanski, is a talented comedic director. He had previously made SNL shorts and worked on the great short film parody for HBO, 7 Days in Hell. That film parodying HBO Sports documentaries had more visual wit and style in its less than an hour running time than this whole movie.  

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates just becomes a series of funny gags individually that come together on the thinnest of strings to make a meh whole. This movie is indicative of this summer releases. There is no reason to warrant this movie’s release in the summer. There is nothing special about it to become anything more than a movie that occasionally plays on TBS. It’s not funny enough to be a classic. There is nothing edgy, campy or smart enough to make it a cult classic. It is a movie that is made to be a blip on all of these talented actor’s filmographies. That’s the fate of a film that is neither good nor horrible. It simply exists.

Rewind: Defending Your Life: Speaking of comedies about men using women to help them grow, Netflix recently added the entire filmography of Albert Brooks as director. Brooks has a small but devoted fan base as he wrote material about being a neurotic male, making poor decisions because he cannot shut his mouth trying to grow up. Think Larry David meets Judd Apatow. One of my favorite of Brooks’ films is Defending Your Life, in which there is an afterlife in which one must defend their life in order to move on or else get reincarnated back to Earth. Brooks is at his best here being ruder and more neurotic than he has ever been. He gets to play off great foils like Rip Torn and Meryl Streep. This film and all other Brooks films are now on Netflix.

Coming Soon: Imperium: Daniel Radcliffe literally never has to work again because of the amount of money he has made off Harry Potter. That has afforded him the chance to take roles and challenges that shakes off that child star persona. While still in the middle of the Harry Potter franchise, Radcliffe took on the play Equus, which famously had him display full frontal nudity. Just this year he played co-lead as a dead body in Swiss Army Man. Now in the new Imperium trailer, Radcliffe will play a cop going undercover in a Neo-Nazi organization. Of course, this movie is selling the audience on seeing Harry Potter as a neo-nazi which sounds like the scariest thing in the world. Imperium is set to be released on August 19th.