Sony Pictures Entertainment
Doug Harris (Josh Gad) is a likable shlub with a fat bank account, a beautiful fiance (Kaley Cuoco) and one small problem. He has no guy friends to be his best man and groomsmen at his upcoming wedding. That all changes though when he discovers Best Man, Inc. and its CEO, Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart). He won’t be your friend after the wedding, but for a small fee Jimmy will be the best best man you could have hoped for, for a slightly bigger fee he’ll also include one or two groomsmen for your special day and for $50k? For $50k he’ll roll out the Golden Tux package.
The illusion works flawlessly for the first few minutes, but it’s all downhill once grandma (Cloris Leachman) catches on fire.
The Wedding Ringer is less of a movie than a log line, and it’s a fact evident through almost every one of the film’s 101 minutes. It’s a mash-up of Hitch and The Wedding Date, and it’s about as funny as that sounds.
Jimmy takes on the identity of Doug’s made-up friend, Bic Mitchum – named in a panic while staring into his medicine cabinet – and pulls together a motley crew of acquaintances and strangers to pose as groomsmen. The guys spend a few days together memorizing their imaginary shared history, taking fake photos and repeatedly proving their high degree of collective incompetence. Through it all Jimmy continues to remind Doug that this is a business arrangement and that an actual friendship isn’t part of the deal.
You can probably see where this is going.
Of course an obvious plot line is nothing new to the world of studio comedies, but usually the films are content falling back on their cast and script to deliver enough laughs to make the whole thing work despite the unoriginality. Neither of those back-up plans work here though. Both Hart and Gad have displayed solid comedic timing and delivery in the past, but while the former pushes a couple gags through on the sheer power of determination alone they’re not nearly enough to keep the movie afloat.
The script, co-written by director Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender, sets up the premise and then essentially walks away from trying anything further. Instead we get sequences of extreme broad comedy (grandma, an unfortunate dog encounter), attempts at forced bonding between the leads and pure filler. One example of that last element is a football game between the groomsmen and several men in their seventies. See, we’d expect the younger guys to win easily, but surprise! These old bastards are tough! Funny stuff that, and it goes on for what feels like forever.
The attempts at humor run the gamut from crass to pure pop culture references – fine, I admit laughing at the Goonies gag – but there’s a surprising number of jokes about gays including a few that approach the line of gay panic. It’s not the content as nothing should be out of bounds for comedy, but the structure and delivery often aim for laughs based solely on someone being uncomfortable with possible guy on guy contact. But hey, they also go for repeated laughs involving one guy’s stutter so at least they’re equal opportunity offenders in their laziness. Less central aspects of the film are just as lacking in enthusiasm including a score that couldn’t be more on point if it tried.
If there’s a bright side to the film it’s in the few minutes we get to spend with Olivia Thirlby. She plays Gretchen’s (Cuoco) younger sister, Alison, and while it’s an otherwise forgettable character designed for a singular predictable purpose you can’t help but smile when she’s onscreen. Sadly, she’s only onscreen for a total of ten minutes or so, but even in that limited time she brings a real degree of charm and vitality to an otherwise flat affair. Okay fine, Jeffrey Ross’ brief turn as a wedding singer is also appreciated.
The Wedding Ringer starts and ends with its potential-filled premise, and whether or not it catches on with audiences it’s a shame that the otherwise talented Hart and Gad have already sunk to this level of their career. And by “this level” of course I mean a movie where Jorge Garcia is allowed to make a Lost joke.
The Upside: A couple funny jokes; Olivia Thirlby
The Downside: A massive amount of unfunny jokes; mild gay panic; script stops trying past the premise; on the nose score
On the Side: Garelick and Lavender also wrote The Break-Up.