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Yes, the movie is called Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, and stars Adam DeVine and Zac Efron as two hard-partying brothers, but some of the funniest moments in the film are actually pulled off by the wedding dates themselves — played by Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza.
Alice (Kendrick) and Tatiana (Plaza) are the movie’s two trouble-making best friends who — after seeing Mike and Dave’s ad on Craigslist looking for respectable girls to take to their sister’s wedding in Hawaii — con the guys into inviting them. As it turns out, the ladies are more of a mess than their male counterparts and they soon begin to wreak plenty of havoc on the island.
Alice is recovering (mostly by drinking and dancing on tables) from being left at the alter, while Tatiana, who swears and stirs up the most trouble of the four, is willing to go to such great lengths to secure that invite from Mike and Dave that she jumps in front of a moving car so that Mike can “save” her.
Plaza says when she first read the script, the car accident scene was one of her favorites. “It made me laugh so hard when I read it. I just couldn’t believe they wrote a character that would do something like that,” she says. “I think it’s really rare to read a script where the female characters are just as funny as the male characters, so I was really excited.” Alice may be even more transgressive than the guys, but Plaza explains that that’s exactly what appealed to her. “I feel more of a sensitivity towards the way female characters are written in movies, and the way they’re perceived,” she says. “I think there’s more of a focus on trying not to fall back on stereotypical characters for females. I think people are really interested in seeing more dynamic characters for women these days.”
Plaza and Kendrick are supported by other strong female performers in the comedy from Fox and Chernin Entertainment. Sugar Lyn Beard, who plays Mike and Dave’s sister, has a laugh-out-loud scene when she’s given an intense and absurd erotic massage by a masseur (Kumail Nanjiani) that leads to a happy ending, while Alice Wetterlund plays Mike and Dave’s lesbian cousin who has her eye on Tatiana.
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is just the latest in a string of 2016 comedies that are providing star turns for actresses. After her breakout performance in Neighbors in 2014, Rose Byrne returned for the sequel in May, and the film also showcased Chloe Moretz and Kiersey Clemons, who played the neighboring sorority sisters. And Sony’s Ghostbuster‘s reboot, which caused an Internet stir when director Paul Feig decided to make the film starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, will hit theaters on July 15.
As director Jake Szymanski tells it, it was the characters of Tatiana and Alice that piqued his interest in the script for Mike and Dave. “The female characters clearly had something to work with and they weren’t just there to react to the guys. In fact, the girls are the driving force in the movie,” he says. “I got excited reading it because I knew actresses would want to do these roles because sadly there are fewer female roles that actually have some meat on the bones.”
And one of the first things Szymanski did when he signed on was to revise the script was to adjust the story so the female characters were introduced earlier. “I wanted to get them involved from the beginning and make it a true four-hander,” he says.
It certainly helped that Kendrick and Plaza are accustomed to working together: They both appeared in 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and 2014’s zombie comedy Life After Beth.
Plaza also is known for her comedy performances on TV’s Parks and Recreation, where she played the perpetually scowling April, and recent films like Dirty Grandpa and The To Do List. Her knack for raunchy comedy came out on set of Mike and Dave when she would try alternative jokes (referred to as “Alts). “I think I often had to tell Aubrey to take it down a notch. She was ready to take it too far every take,” Szymanski says.
Adds Plaza: “I’m so happy that I was allowed to create such an insane character and really go for it in a big movie like this. It’s a rare opportunity for me. I normally tend to do smaller movies and I don’t tend to get to take a big risk in front of bigger audiences, so I’m grateful for that.”
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