3 stars (out of 4)
The four lead characters have fewer brain cells than a guppy in the Pacific Ocean. It's not a contest. One of them thinks a hedge fund is a fund with hedges.
And yet ... these idiots are funny. Laugh-a-minute funny. And you’ll be more than happy to go along with them in this featherweight, often-uproarious comedy (which, according to the prologue, is “based on a true story ... sort of.”)
Their innate likability helps the cause. You’ll fall for brothers Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) from the get-go, as they adorably fail to con a local bartender to stock their alcohol. These n’er-do-well dudes also have a knack for ruining family events in spectacular fashion. Don’t even start with Grandpa’s heart condition. That’s why their parents demand that the guys find dates for their sister’s wedding in Hawaii. And not just any dates. Nice respectable girls who will rein in their shenanigans. They place an ad on Craigslist, and, boom, the offer for an all-expenses-paid trip to the tropics goes viral.
Enter Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza), two floozies who show up drunk to their waitressing gig, get fired and celebrate by dancing on the table to a Rihanna song. They need a free vacay, and besides, Alice is still reeling from her fiancé literally ditching her at the altar. When they see Mike and Dave do their pitch on The Wendy Williams Show, the girls become set on being plus-ones. No matter that their favorite hobby is smoking weed.
Solution? Pose as good girls. At a bar, Tatiana pretends to be a teacher (she flashes a No. 2 pencil for proof), while Alice sputters out that she works in finance. Anyone can see through this pathetic little scheme. But not these two dim-yet-smitten bros. Hawaii, here we come!
So this Girls-Gone-Wild narrative isn't exactly an important example of onscreen feminism. But in a typical balls-out comedy, consider that females either come off as naggy shrews or agreeable doormats next to their bawdy opposite-sex counterparts. Not here. Kendrick and Plaza out-drink, out-smoke and out-sex Devine and Efron. Good for the ever-versatile Kendrick for nixing her usual Type-A role in favor of this searing-hot mess.
Hijinks ensue, of course. The girls’ façade cracks as soon they step foot in the hotel and obnoxiously demand a room to share. (Mike was hoping to get it on with Tatiana.) An ATV excursion turns disastrous. There’s an unfortunate incident in which Kendrick gives the bride-to-be ecstasy during the rehearsal dinner. They confess early on about the charade, leading to more outrageous antics. As long as you're in the right giggle-ish mindset, even the most predictable set pieces manage to work.
Surprisingly, the lazy throwaway jokes pack the biggest Hawaiian punch. The actors pepper their lines with snappy pop culture-inflected flair, ranging from a Jurassic Park dig to an inevitable Wedding Crashers comparison. (Forgetting Sarah Marshall goes unmentioned, despite the films’ similarities.) Devine and his exasperated charm mesh well with Efron, whose goofy comedic chops have become even more defined than his abs. (Just wait until you hear his Liam Neeson impression.) Along with Kendrick and Plaza, they make for quite a fearsome foursome.
That’s why the film takes a dip in the third act when the characters develop a conscience. We’re here for raucous fun — nobody RSVP’d for soul searching and apologizing. (You can hear the Full House–esque let’s-learn-from-our-mistakes music score play in the background). As long as everyone stays in the sun, a bright comedic paradise abounds.
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