The Dates of wrath

An apple bong a day keeps the doctor away.

An apple bong a day keeps the doctor away.

Rated 2.0

Abandon hope of wit, all ye who enter here. Based on the brief Internet fame of misogynist brothers Mike and Dave Stangle (but apparently not adapted from their misogynist book of the same name), Jake Szymanski’s Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates announces its utter lack of cleverness from the opening title: “Based on a True Story … sort of.” That’s a huge canyon of inane self-satisfaction for the rest of the film to leap, and if not for pure duty, I probably would have walked out right there. At that point, all hope truly was lost.

Of course, it’s absurd to expect droll repartee instead of body fluid chaos and high-key idiocy from the screenwriters of the Neighbors films and the director of such video shorts as Red Bull Energy Douche and Denise Richards’ Funbags. You’re paying for sophomoric gags about hairy vaginas and fingerbanging in the suana and butts rubbing against other butts, not for the social observation of Richard Linklater or the sophisticated wordplay of Whit Stillman. But Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates can’t even clear its own low comedic bar.

Adam DeVine and Zac Efron star as bachelor brothers Mike and Dave, “lovable” sociopaths infamous for their out-of-control party antics. Their family lays down an ultimatum (“Why does Dad care about an old tomato?” is the predictably unfunny response): show up to their sister’s Hawaiian wedding with dates who will keep them in check, or don’t show up at all. The brothers post a Craigslist ad that goes viral, attracting a couple of hot-mess sake bomb slingers played with gusto by Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick.

It’s a shame that the behind-the-camera team couldn’t make more of an effort, because everyone in front of the camera has their dial turned up to 11. I do not mean that as a compliment. In fact, the entire film feels designed to disprove the idea that bad material gets funnier the longer and louder you scream it. You can count the number of scenes that don’t devolve into screeching matches on a couple of hairy palms.

All four leads are one-note gonzo, and while I admire the effort, it gets old fast once you realize they’re not saying or doing anything funny. The best moments tend to come from talented supporting players like Stephen Root, Sam Richardson, Kumail Nanjiani and Alice Wetterlund. They’re all working their butts off in service of a script that seems like it was written during a junior high school detention period.

Szymanski’s last film was the HBO minimovie 7 Days in Hell, another high-energy, low-cleverness effort that felt long even at a mere 43 minutes. The 98-minute running time of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates makes it feel like the Berlin Alexanderplatz of soft-R raunchy comedies by comparison, especially in a torturous third act overloaded with hug-and-fart reconciliations. If the film ultimately wanted us to care about these characters, it probably shouldn’t have made them so loathsome in the first place.