08 July 2016

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Pets

Another Friday is upon us, ladies and gentlemen, so it's time once again to discuss the merits of the next theatrical masterpiece to hit the cinematron this day. It almost feels like a light week with only two films to discuss and as an even more stunning fact, neither are sequels, adaptations, or franchise installments! What a time to be alive!

Needless to say, the slots for the next few summers are set in stone, and if Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017), and World War Z II (2017) do well, that may change things (holy hell, not bloody likely), but as it sits now, we might see more weeks like this. Audiences have grotesquely expressed their lack of interest in sequels, or to be more specific, a lack of interest in seeing the same crap they just saw. Captain America: Civil War (2016) was a different spin with heavy emotional investment. Finding Dory (2016) was more of a spin-off than a direct sequel that brought the audience into new places with new characters while expanding a character that seemed un-expandable. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) offered the same old shit. How many of you are really that excited about the awkwardly titled World War Z II? Holy shit, how does this stuff get greenlit? Well, international markets, that's why.

But on to the task at hand. Today we see the arrival of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016) and The Secret Life of Pets (2016). I'm very excited for one of these and I also think that that will do very well, while the other crashes and burns like The Angry Birds Movie (2016). Try to guess which one will do which! Maybe Angry Birds wasn't an unequivocal disaster, but it certainly feels like it landed with a thud rather than exaltation. So let's just start with that one.
Jeez I hope my dog doesn't do this at home. I use that beater!

The Secret Life of Pets looks awful, and has been getting some rough reviews. This latest animated assault on the box office comes from Illumination Entertainment, which delivered the surprisingly good (but sort of awkwardly named) Despicable Me (2010), followed that up with the lesser, but financially astounding Despicable Me 2 (2013), and most recently, Minions (2015), which was just egregiously awful. They've really stuck in their Gru/Minions world setting, and although the Minions are one of the best iconic branded characters to come out of any film series in recent memory, the studio's commitment to kid and only kid-friendly material is detrimental to anyone else's enjoyment of their films.

I say this having just watched Minions like two days ago, and even though I was excited to see a slapstick comedy rendition that was essentially a silent film (without the principal characters speaking English), I instead got an awkwardly voiced and animated barrage of lame jokes and set-ups. I continually sat there wishing what I was watching was clever. Old Looney Tunes used to craft a delicate set-up then subvert expectations with a huge pay-off. Minions crafted these set-ups and then executed them exactly as you'd expect.

The Secret Life of Pets appears to be more of the same. Everything in the marketing material seems to be very obvious, surface-level stuff without anything really interesting going on. There's also absolutely no indication of the story being told or even who the main protagonists are (they're apparently voiced by Louis C.K. and Eric Stonestreet. These guys. Have you seen any commercial starring these two?). It's never a great sign when the studio isn't confident enough to broadcast the story being told and is instead relying on the slight zaniness of the premise.

And that premise, by the way, is apparently exactly the same as Toy Story (1995). Like, straight up. These kind of things are red flags to me. Lack of a coherent story structure, memorable characters, or inventive gags are all things that really lead me to believe that this shit id dead in the water. We've already had a very animation-heavy summer, and to be more specific, a very heavy talking-animal animation heavy year. This could obviously go either way. On the one hand, this is clearly what people want right now. On the other hand, Zootopia (2016) and Finding Dory (2016) have done this schtick better, the former of which just dropped on DVD, the latter is still the reigning box office champ. Six months from now we're not going to be discussing The Secret Life of Pets.

So we move on next to the latest comedy of the summer, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. In my earlier predicitions, I thought this could be an epic year for Comedy, possibly the best ever. Between Neighbors 2 (2016), The Nice Guys (2016), and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016), the line-up was spectacular. While all of these films reviewed well, none broke out to become that epic, ever-memorable Summer 2016 event like Knocked Up (2007) or The Hangover (2009) or hell, even The Campaign (2012) in years past. We're still looking for our Trainwreck (2015) or our 22 Jump Street (2014) to blast us into the stratosphere. I think Mike and Dave have an outside shot.

First of all, I love the "based on a true story" rub. I first saw this in some late marketing and I thought it was a great riff on "true story" pictures that are typically more serious. Then I found out it really was based on a ridiculous true story! That's incredible! I love movies based on Internet ads. Call this the Tusk (2014) effect.

But this flick ought to be a goldmine. No comedy outside of Deadpool (2016) has really caught on this year, and the cast is totally likable and primed for superstardom. Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Adam DeVine, and Zac Efron are all mid-level stars who have incredibly funny resumes. It's A, A, A, and Z! The premise is easy to understand, a solid gold opportunity for goofiness, and the turn with these bros biting off more than they can chew is both pleasing to the gender wars and a magnificent rug pull for these character tropes and stereotypes. I'm on board 100%.
Alright, now I just want that suit.

Now, I said the exact same thing about Popstar but whatevs. It can't fail THAT bad right? Right? I think this comes at the right time. We're in a relative dead zone (Finding Dory somehow won three weeks in a row and no other film is dominant right now), and we're starved for straightforward comedies. A drawback could come from its R-rating that could prevent a lot of people from seeing it or being interested in it, but fuck, every movie I cited above was R, so that argument is horrible. R for Retarded, if you will. Hey, this just became an R-rated paragraph, what do you want from me.

Commercially I think it's on solid footing. It's had some fairly good reviews. Around here of course, we're most interested in its cultural foothold. Can it rise to become the Funniest Film of 2016? That's really where it needs to be, and the path is set for it to take the Crown. Efron is suddenly starting to make a name for himself in these raunchy bro-spoofing comedies and I'm curious if he distinguishes himself enough from his Teddy character from Neighbors 2, which came out really recently. Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza have been in slews of films, most notably together in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), and while Kendrick has never really been the center of funny in a film (Pitch Perfect [2012] probably comes closest, but she wasn't really the source of laughs. Just a source of AWESOME), Plaza did have the underrated The To-Do List (2013), which really didn't make much of a dent three summers ago. It's interesting that her character here seems wildly out of her typical April Ludgate disinterested teen schtick. Maybe that's because she's 32 now.

This is really the test of Adam DeVine, though, who's never headlined a major movie before. He's bounced around for sure (another Pitch Perfect alum), including random stints in The Final Girls (2015), and The Intern (2015), mostly riffing on his Workaholics faux-bro persona. There's actually also a weird Robert DeNiro connection there through The Intern and Zac Efron in Dirty Grandpa (2016). And Aubrey Plaza was in Dirty Grandpa! This is getting weird. I'd also almost guarantee some kind of cameo from his other Workaholics suite-mates, although they've all become decently busy now. Still, he's built up enough of a personal brand from Adam DeVine's House Party to Allstate ads. He's ripe for a break-out hit and I think this can be it.

So what do you think? Are you watching the cuddly but moronic animated animal movie or what could be the break-out comedy of the summer? Or just Finding Dory again? Leave one below!

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