Archive for the ‘Zac Efron’ Category

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In 2013, two dude-bro brothers named Mike and Dave posted an ad on Craigslist looking for dates to accompany them to a wedding. You likely heard the story, as the stunt quickly gained the viral ubiquity of our fleeting national attention.

And like clockwork, here we are three years later with an irreverent comedy based on Mike and Dave’s antics (an eventuality overtly prophesied in the Craiglist post in question). As the down-to-business title suggests, this is a movie about Mike and Dave, played by Zac Efron and Adam Devine, who need wedding dates, which they find in Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza through the miracle of the internet and daytime talk show television.

Both men are well-intentioned and affable manboys whose life-of-the-party aspirations are inevitably undone by flying too close to the sun. This premise is introduced in probably the only coherent and comedically consistent vignette of the film, as Mike and Dave’s family visits with a slide-show montage of their past destruction and a mandate to arrive to their sister’s upcoming nuptials with plus-ones in tow as a protective measure against their accidentally destructive nature.

There are a few more laughs to be had, but not many. The movie plays as if SNL devoted an entire episode to a single sketch: it’s largely improvised and occasionally funny, but most of the jokes fail to land and everything would be better with a few more celebrity cameos. To their credit, Efron, Devine, Kendrick and Plaza are committed to their bits, working overtime to squeeze a few more drops of comedy blood out of the stone that is the film’s outline of a script. But their performances are also grating, particularly Plaza, who is forced to relinquish her otherwise capable comedy timing in favor of a barely two-dimensional caricature of a “bad” girl playing nice.

At every turn “Mike and Dave” seems desperate to position itself as a spiritual extension of Wedding Crashers, going so far as to name-drop the earlier film in a particularly on-the-nose scene. But while leads Efron and Devine exhibit some of that Wilson/Vaughan chemistry, the surrounding film is severely lacking in the showmanship and ingenuity of better comedies.

It’s a failed attempt that barely entertains for its shorter-than-it-feels running time.

Grade: C+

*Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates opens nationwide on Friday, July 8.

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Fans of CBS’ How I Met Your Mother — and casual passers-by marginally aware of the show — will notice how the cast has begun to diversify their portfolios. It started with Neil Patrick Harris becoming the default host of the world, followed swiftly by Jason Segel inching away from strictly stoner-comedies to more mainstream box office fare. Cobie Smoulders will pick up a rather decent supporting role in this year’s The Avengers and Allison Hannigan will always be the most succesful actress from the American Pie family.

That leaves “star” Josh Radnor, whose quest for his soulmate is the keystone of HIMYM’s dramatic setup and who has, for the most part, remained largely unknown to those outside of the CBS Monday juggernaut. Turns out, Radnor has been cementing his status as “The New Zach Braff” by not only focusing on his breakout sitcom role — that of a quirky hopeless romantic everyman — but also padding his resume as an up-and-coming writer and director of Independent Film. Much like how Zach Braff had his Garden State, Radnor has given us HappyThankYouMorePlease — a 2010 Sundance award-winner that saw a modest theatrical release to mixed reviews — and now Liberal Arts, a light dramedy about the romance of academia and the unstoppable passage of time.

Radnor — again writing, starring and directing — is Jesse, a mid-30s New Yorker numbed by his job as a University admissions counselor. When he’s invited back to his Alma Mater for the retirement dinner of a friend and former professor his memories of unhindered youth and knowledge are revived and in the ensuing glow he falls into an ill-advised romance with a 19-year-old sophomore (played by the Indie girl-of-the-moment Elizabeth Olsen).

What unfolds is an charming cautionary tale about accepting the changing times, learning to act your age and enjoying life, all personified by a small but delightful supporting cast — Richard Jenkins, Allison Janey and Zac Efron against-type as a hippie stoner.

If I were to name a fault, it would be that the plot moves forward along a natural — I hate to say “predictable” — path with few earth-shaking surprises but even that comes with a caveat: how often in life is our earth shaken? While yes, the movie stays mostly above water, resisting the urge at a number of occasions to plunge into darker depths, the result is story that from end to end would plausibly exist in the universe of a boring 30-something’s life. That he learns something and that the audience gets some well-deserved laughs is gravy on the 2-hour slice of life.
The comparison is inevitable and Liberal Arts falls short of Garden State, but Radnor still crafts a worthwhile tale that is sweet, clever, sincere and relatable to anyone who has ever been to college or who has ever aged. He avoids the pull of a lurid, hard-to-watch-romance, instead allowing his character the sense to recognize the disaster of a romance with a teenager, while being tortured by a believable attraction to her. What’s more, the movie is shockingly tame toeing the line between PG and PG-13 — Sundance movies aren’t rated — which, to anyone who’s been to Sundance, can be a refreshing surprise. B+

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