Director: Jeremy Garelick
Cast: Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Ken Howard, Cloris Leachman, Jenifer Lewis, Mimi Rogers, Olivia Thirlby
Release Date: January 16th, 2015
Like so many of his earlier films, capsule The Wedding Ringer seems built as a showcase for star Kevin Hart. Like Ride Along (2014) and About Last Night (2014) the film offers the comedic actor the opportunity to let his ebullient personality take the main stage. Fortunately here, dosage it’s tempered by the relateable Josh Gad, who plays a fiancé who realizes that he has no one to serve as his best man at his upcoming wedding.
Gad plays Doug Harris, a successful businessman who is beyond excited to be engaged to the beautiful Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting). Doug’s parents have died and he has few friends to speak of so as his nuptials approach, he’s too nervous to let Gretchen know that he doesn’t have anyone to serve as his best man or as his groomsmen. That’s where wedding ringer Jimmy Callahan (Hart) comes in. Jimmy runs a successful company called “The Best Man Inc.,” which offers the services of a “best man for hire.”
In Doug’s case, he needs a whole male wedding party.
Unlike some of Hart’s previous acting efforts, he tones down his character here allowing for more personal growth along the way. Jimmy isn’t a caricature. He’s enthusiastic and spirited but this feature gives Hart more of an arc than many of his previous efforts. Despite the tomfoolery necessary to be successful in his job, his character is even very forthcoming about why he does what he does. He isn’t trying to make friends (that’s against the rules, actually). He’s just trying to boost the spirit and ego of an overwhelmed groom who doesn’t have any male friends or relatives to stand by him on his wedding day.
Hart and Gad offer a unique chemistry here, something that has been missing in several Hart films before (which oftentimes elevate Hart at the expense of the other players). Hart may be bursting with energy in many scenes here but there are also quieter sequences that show his character’s depth. Gad, whose optimistic naivete often on display, also helps keep the feature grounded as it offers up some thoughts on the wedding industry. Not everything in the wedding party is what it seems and the feature offers a subtle but noteworthy criticism of an industry that sometimes favors superficiality and presentation over the ceremony itself.
There are times though that the movie randomly embraces its R rating, opting for crude and crass comedy that seems completely over-the-top and unnecessary. A bachelor party gone wrong brings Doug to the hospital in the film’s most outrageous and obnoxious scenes. Films like There’s Something about Mary (1998) have explored similar material before in a smarter way so these scenes seem completely inept and blatantly repetitive.
If the plot of the film seems familiar overall, it is. In 2005, the Will Smith comedy featured a charismatic “professional” trying to help a chubby businessman build up his confidence. In I Love You, Man (2009), the character played by Paul Rudd searched for a “guy friend” to serve as his own best man. The concept of a “relationship” builder helping a loner build up his ego isn’t new to the cinematic world and neither is the search for a male best friend for a guy who has few to speak of.
That being said, Hart and Gad offer enough comedy here to make this film work. Aided by a rough team of weirdos that Hart hires for the wedding party and a dance sequence that’s hard not to enjoy, The Wedding Ringer works despite its obvious stumbles along the way.
Review by: John Hanlon