Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates

The men might have their names in the title but it’s the women who steal the show.

It you’re in need of an antidote to disappointing blockbusters (see Suicide Squad), you’re not a big fan of science fiction (see Star Trek Beyond) and for whatever reason can’t stand kids films (erm maybe you’re heartless…see Finding Dory, I guess..?) then this film just about does the job. If you like your frat pack movies and love watching a bit of raunch then you’re going to love this.

Mike (Adam Devine) and his younger brother Dave (Zac Efron) are renowned  for their behaviour at family events. They think they get the party started, their family think they end all the parties with reckless and dangerous behaviour after getting each other relied up. Their sister Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard) is about to get married to Eric (Sam Richardson) so the family issue the brothers an ultimatum to prevent them from running their big day – if they want to attend they must bring wedding dates. They post an ad on Craigslist – offering an all expenses trip to Hawaii for two ‘nice girls’ in return for accompanying them as their wedding dates. The ad goes viral, with the brothers even going on tv to discuss their search. That when definitely not ‘nice girls’ Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) and Alice (Anna Kendrick) find out about the search, deciding to pose as ‘nice girls’ they end up accompanying Mike and Dave to the wedding. The boys quickly discover their newfound companions  are far wilder than expected. 

This film is not the greatest comedy to come out of this millennium. In fact once this summer finishes I doubt it will ever be remembered. And yet, for right now, it more than serves its purpose of a summer comedy. It easily passes the six laugh test and most of the jokes are hits rather than misses. And even with the misses the jokes come so frequently the miss is quickly remedied. The standout joke, which was so throwaway you might even miss it, has to be when Tatiana is talking about one experience when she was so high she read a shampoo bottle for 13 hours. The delivery and the punchline itself caused me to giggle myself silly, so much so I nearly had tears of laughter.

The story rarely strays from an unexpected path and is at times rather predictable – though this is not a huge problem considering how entertaining it ends up being. Based ‘sort of’ on a true story (one which I fully intend to investigate further) it’s great fun to watch the situation escalate with a series of raucous situations. The film is reliant, almost overly, on it’s cast to provide the personality and charm of the characters. Yet, rather pleasingly, it’s something all of the cast succeed at.

We’ll go in order of introduction. Mike, played by Devine in his first leading man role, does well. He brings the oddball charm he’s most known for providing in both Pitch Perfect movies (here’s my review of the sequel ) and tv series Modern Family whilst going to even more extreme lengths. Whether it’s the fact he shares most of his screen time with old pro Efron (old pro aged 28- ha!) it occasionally comes across that he is trying to too-hard leading his character to be gratingly over-the-top. On the whole, however, he provides many laughs. Best moment: his meltdown over his behaviour.

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Then there’s Dave. Efron plays the role with ease, providing a nice and easy comic groove he has been displaying in recent years. His character here is far more likeable than his character in Bad Neighbours 2 and plays the more rational of the two brothers very well. At times it does feel like he’s coasting on his admittedly innate charm and yet then brings it out with some excellent delivery. Best moment:  his relationship with Alice.

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The film’s most valued player has to be Aubrey Plaza. She plays Tatiania to deadpan perfection – think April from Parks & Rec but wilder and raunchier. She easily out-grosses and out-does the boys. Her adept skill at manipulating the boys and concealing their boozy and stoned behaviours provides much hilarity. Best moment: the aforementioned shampoo gag.

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The big surprise from the four had to be Anna Kendrick as Alice. Kendrick USP tends to be character who are clever, deadpan and kick-ass with a bit of goofiness. Here she is more than a bit ditzy, a bit dim and completely goofy. Normally she seems really with it and together, here she’s a total loose cannon. It really works, bringing a sweetness and sincerity that balances well with Plaza’s powers of evisceration. Best moment: her flashbacks of her not-quite wedding.

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 It’s down to the chemistry and in-syncness of the four leads that allow this film to work so well. It’s crude, rather rude, not massively memorable and yet funny enough to fill in 100 minutes running time. If the heatwave we are promised in the upcoming weeks does actually arrive this film is a great excuse to hide in an air conditioned cinema!

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‘Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates’ is in UK cinema now. 

 

Bad Neighbours 2

A surprisingly knowledgeable and at times rather progressive comedy

It started with a tweet. On Thursday evening movie magazine Little White Lies tweeted about its review for Bad Neighbours 2. The review as written by Elena Lazic with  the tweet reading ‘I went long on the unexpectedly progressive, feminist and funny Bad Neighbours 2’. Now, as anyone who knows me, that’s the kind of click-bait that gets me hooked into reading. The review itself is wonderfully written – very reflective and articulate. Hopefully this review lives up to the one that inspired the film-watching and subsequent review! Post-watching I firmly agree with Miss Lazic’s review – for Bad Neighbours 2 is full of surprises. Most of them good and approvingly well-informed of gender politics.

Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) and his wife Kelly (Rose Byrne) are expecting their second daughter so decide to put their house on the market and move into the suburbs. A married couple with a young child place an offer putting the property into escrow – for the next 30 days the potential buyers can drop in at any time and have any inspections they wish undertaken before they confirm their buying of the property. For the next 30 days Mac and Kelly need for everything to stay the same, no big changes which will scare off the buyers. What’s more than unfortunate is that their new neighbours move in on day 1 of 30 – and their neighbours are the college’s newest sorority. Kappa Nu has been newly founded by Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein). The trio united and formed the new sorority as they disagree with sexist legislation that prevents the existing sororities form having parties  and were disgusted by the sexist antics of the fraternity party they attended. War is soon declared between the ‘old’ couple and the sorority girls, with ex-Frat boy Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) leading the girls into battle. 

In the mid 2000s the term ‘Frat Pack’ was coined to describe a group of Hollywood actors – this group included Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Jack Black, Vince Vaughn etc.Then came the “Apatow Chapter” (named after writer/director/producer Judd Apatow) which Bad Neighbours 2 lead actor Seth Rogen was a part of. The majority of the films generated from these unholy alliances could not/should not be labelled as displaying any feminist traits. In fact one would be hard-pressed to name just one of these films that featured a single positive representation of women. That’s part of the surprise that comes from watching Bad Neighbours 2.

Many of the early parts of the film, and intermittently throughout, discuss modern issues of equality in an outstandingly sympathetic and understanding manner. The double standards of the rules about sororities not having parties is not actually fictionalised by the film – it’s not a actual law but it is a national mandate decided by those who govern the nation’s leading sororities (read this excellent Washington Post article for further insight). This film appears to be Hollywood’s attempt to address the issue and it does so rather well. The female trios decision to form their own society in which they can go against the system is reinforced when they attend a Frat party – a party in which they see sexist treatment of women being accepted as a norm with an atmosphere akin to that of a hunting ground with men stalking what they view as walking vaginas. It’s a cleverly written scene which is nowhere near as heavily-handed written as it could have been. 

The issue soon takes the backseat for the battle between the two generations/neighbours – during which very little that is new or of much interest. But what does remain on screen are portrayals of women who have a certain spark, a fight within them, that most Hollywood comedies assigns to its male characters. Ordinally the female figures on the screen are resigned to being love interests or purveyors of gratuitous nudity. As annoying as Shelby gets, and she does get pretty annoying, she remains a character who is female, who is interesting and possesses some semblance of a personality. It is scary to reflect on how rarely such a female figure makes  it onto the big screen. Bryne is also given a role that is rather atypical for Frat Pack movies – a wife who is not presented as some sort of shrieking harpy. She appears to be as fun-loving as her husband and they comes across as equals in their relationship – they are proper partners in crime.

Aside from the ensuing pontification on equality, I did release a fair few chuckles watching this film. Some of Efron’s speeches were delightful, his dancing rather exquisite and his slapstick guffaw-inducing. At only 92 minutes long the film is a more than amusing way to while away an afternoon or evening. Plus the more conversations it stirs up about portrayals of gender the better!

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We Are Your Friends

You’ll Never Be Alone Again!

If you did not find yourself singing along when you read the above sentence, or are not aware of how that sentence links to the film’s title, this may not be the film for you. (Answer – it’s the central lyric to Justice Vs Simian’s 2008 hit ‘We Are Your Friends) The film is aimed squarely at Generation Y, bringing remnants of a traditional coming-of-age narrative together with modernity and scoring it with electronica. And it really works. Surprisingly so. It’s released at the perfect time, at the tail end of the summer, as the film reflects the comedown and bittersweetness this time of year brings. It’s the last party of the summer, are you in?

Cole (Zac Efron) is a 23-year old struggling DJ who lives in the San Fernando valley, the urbanised area on the other side of the Hollywood Hills, and dreams of becoming a world-renowned record producer. Cole’s three closest friends also dream of something big, something more than the lot they have been handed. Thursday night socials are the highlight of their week. The foursome spend the day hustling a crowd for nightclub, then reap the small rewards in the night with free drinks, the attention of women and the possibility of a small sum. During these night’s Cole gets to perform a set to warm-up the crowd for the headline act. It’s the only time he really feels alive. One night that headline act is James (Wes Bentley), a celebrity DJ who is losing the battles against his demons. He fears that he has lost his talent and relies on alcohol to push such thoughts away. His assistant and girlfriend Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski) loves him but is hurt to see him struggle in this way. James quickly becomes Cole’s mentor, becoming a big part of his life. So does Sophie, who Cole forms a connection with, which will force him into making difficult decisions about his future. 

Based on the trailers for We Are Your Friends it would have been easy to rule it out as an Entourage for the millennials. Cole’s crew is made up of similar archetypes as Entourage– the ‘hot head’, the ‘hustler’, the ‘brains’ and with Cole as the ‘talent’. Yet several aspects of the film prevent it from deserving this status, and in fact elevate it above it. Specifically the direction and cinematography. Directed and co-written by Max Joseph (one of the co-hosts of MTV’s Catfish) the film’s tone echoes the world it is set in: the humidity of LA, the tense uncertainty of their environment and the sheer unadulterated escapist joy that music can bring. Joseph makes some unique choices along the way with some stand-out sequences including the blend of live action and animation at the art gallery after-party and Cole’s scientific explanation of how to truly get the party started.  It’s the twist 2/3 into the film, along with a sleazy sub-plot, that brings the film back to Earth and makes this a far more realistic tale than the overindulgence and consumerist pornography of Entourage. We Are Your Friends is the Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ to the ‘Holiday’ of Entourage; this is a life in which the party isn’t always worth the resulting hangover.

Zac Efron excels in his role as lead. He brings an engaging mix of ambition and drive, retaining our sympathies throughout each difficult decision.  This film marks Emily Ratajkowski’s leading role (after rising to prominence in the music video for ‘Blurred Lines’) and she’s reasonably good with the material she has been given, stuck in a relationship in which she must watch her partner indulging in excess whilst having feelings for Cole. However in this film she does have an annoying habit of pouting after each utterance, and spends most of the film frowning. This could be an attempt at characterisation, but there could have been more done with the role of the enchanting muse.

The film, like it’s soundtrack, is pulsive and hypnotic. Watch this if you want to prolong your Summer for that little bit longer, or if you want to see a genuine feel-good movie.