[Early Review] Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)

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Director: Jake Szymanski

Cast: Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick, Adam DeVine, Aubrey Plaza

Screenplay: Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien

98 mins. Rated R for crude sexual content, language throughout, drug use and some graphic nudity.

 

Hey, everyone! I was blessed to have seen Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates last night, and here’s my Early Review! Is this comedy enough chuckles to earn a theater experience? Let’s take a look.

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Oddly enough, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is a based on a true story…sort of. It’s the tale of the Stangle Brothers, Mike (Adam DeVine, TV’s Uncle Grandpa, The Intern) and Dave (Zac Efron, 17 Again, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising), and their quest to get dates to their sister’s wedding. Tasked by their parents to get dates or be out of the wedding, Mike and Dave, desperate for nice girls, go to Craigslist with their request. Eventually, the two gain fame in their search, which leads them to Alice (Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect, Get a Job) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza, TV’s Parks and Recreation, Dirty Grandpa), who see this as an opportunity for a free trip to Hawaii and fake themselves off as nice girls. It isn’t long, however, before the Stangles and their wedding dates find that it isn’t easy to fake nice, and supposed hilarity ensues.

I’m going to make a comparison here that you won’t expect. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is very similar to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The entire film feels like a collection of great scenes that just don’t fit together well. The movie isn’t very cohesive. It doesn’t pace very well either. There are numerous scenes that I loved (just wait for the massage bit) but overall these scenes are wasted on a splotchy story from director Jake Szymanski (7 Days in Hell).

I liked the chemistry from stars Efron and DeVine as well as Kendrick and Plaza. This film takes the approach for extreme lowball comedy which works occasionally as a style, but I don’t think Szymanski knows how to cultivate a style of his own that moves the story forward. Instead, he relies heavily on his leads to point the way. The problem with an approach like this is that you get characters that don’t evolve. The quartet of characters all have scenes that tell but don’t show growth which leads to a rather uninspired film.

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Sadly, I didn’t enjoy Mike and Dave nearly enough to endorse this film to you. It is definitely worth a Redbox-ing, but you can save your spending dollars for a better fare. For those of you that don’t want my opinion, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates opens July 8th.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Happy Christmas (2014)

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Director: Joe Swanberg

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Lena Dunham, Joe Swanberg, Mark Webber

Screenplay: Joe Swanberg

82 mins. Rated R for language, drug use and some sexual content.

 

Happy Christmas is about…wait, let me think for a minute. No,seriously, nothing exciting or entertaining happened here, but I’ll give it my best shot. So Jenny (Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect, Into the Woods) breaks up with her boyfriend and goes to live with her brother Jeff (director Joe Swanberg, Drinking Buddies, V/H/S) and his wife Kelly (TV’s Togetherness, Up in the Air). She makes their life terrible essentially. I mean, supposedly they all grow as people, but I didn’t see it.

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This movie was boring as shit. Nothing happened where I felt a connection to these characters. Jenny actually convinces Kelly to throw away her writing abilities to write smut a la Fifty Shades of Grey-like ripoff. The performance serve the screenplay (also by Swanberg), but the story takes them nowhere. This is partly due to the fact that the screenplay called for improvisation and most of the cast could not deliver.

Now Swanberg can direct. I’ve seen some of his work and I liked it. He also can serviceably act. Writing, though? Not so sure.

I’m lucky I watched Happy Christmas by myself at home because I got up and left the room several times out of frustration. Even the dialogue gave me nothing to cling to, which sucks because I love Anna Kendrick and could possibly watch her paint a house and enjoy it, or at least I thought.

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Happy Christmas is so disappointing that I strain to find any merit. There is a great scene post-credits I guess…but even that doesn’t fit the characters and I merely enjoyed the banter between the two female leads and Carson (Lena Dunham, TV’s Girls, This is 40). Seriously. This movie pained me. Bad. Bad movie.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2015oscardeathrace] Into the Woods (2014)

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Director: Rob Marshall

Cast: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, Johnny Depp

Screenplay: James Lapine

125 mins. Rated PG for thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Meryl Streep) [Awards Not Yet Announced]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Production Design [Awards Not Yet Announced]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Costume Design [Awards Not Yet Announced]

 

I truly enjoy Stephen Sondheim’s work, especially Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods. However, do I truly enjoy Disney’s Into the Woods adaptation from director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides)? The answer is quite simple: No, I did not.

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Several classic fairytales come to a head as these classic characters enter a magical wood. A mysterious Witch (Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada, The Giver) has sent a cursed Baker (James Corden, Begin Again, The Three Musketeers) on a mission to collect several magical items to lift a spell that causes him to be infertile, as his Wife (Emily Blunt, Edge of Tomorrow, The Wind Rises) follows in tow. One of the items is a slipper that belongs to the enchanted Cinderella (Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect, Cake). Another is a cow belonging to Jack, a boy who needs to sell the cow at market for more than mere beans. Then there is the red cloak belong to Little Red Riding Hood. Finally, hair belonging to Rapunzel. As each tale interweaves with the others, tragedy seems likely to follow.

First of all, I want to discuss the plot and the changes made to it. It hurt. It hurt the film badly. Needless to say, it makes some characters entirely useless. Literally, Rapunzel’s story could have been wiped away without any recognizable notice, other than the loss of a great song featuring Rapunzel’s Prince and Cinderella’s Prince (Chris Pine, Star Trek, Horrible Bosses 2). The story just kept going without any of the intensity of the original musical. Characters are written away in unseen ways and have no consequence on the film. I hate that many of the darker elements completely disappear while others are handled so haphazardly that it gnawed away at me for the entirety of the film.

Meryl Streep gives an insanely wild performance as the Witch, breaking the actresses’ “No-Witch Policy” for the sake of being one of the most fun characters in the ensemble. Emily Blunt is fun and fantastic but underutilized. James Corden is terrific as the Baker. Chris Pine works hilarious magic, as is Johnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands, Mortdecai) as the Wolf following Red Riding Hood.  Anna Kendrick, while usually great, is horribly miscast as Cinderella. I think the cast here has done good work but can’t seem to get in the correct tone for the film, which is ultimately what the changes to the film caused.

I disagree completely with Oscar Nomination for Production Design. The wood scenes all look so much alike that it is hard to place any of the characters in their current positions. The costumes are nice but the sets all look like they came out of a Lifetime movie (not a compliment).

The pacing here just felt like the story had too many endings due to the plot and tone shifts.

The music had a few great arrangements to it, but many songs fall flat with no clear-cut direction anymore.

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Sadly, Into the Woods is too many good qualities shaped and shifted by Disney to fit a particular mold, and it softens the impact completely. For your money, see the original musical live and enjoy what this story is actually about, rather than a Disneyfied pile of “stuff.”

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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