Rating: 4 out of 10
Kevin Hart as Jimmy Callahan / Bic
Directed by Jeremy Garlic
Doug Harris (Josh Gad) has done well in business, but he doesn’t have any close friends that he can call on to be his best man at his wedding to his girlfriend Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) which is just days away. He calls upon Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart), a professional best man who realizes he may be in over his head when he has to gather a group of guys to act as Doug’s groomsmen.
The latest R-rated buddy comedy starring Kevin Hart doesn’t waste too much time setting up its high concept premise with a cold open featuring Josh Gad’s character trying to drum up old friends from his past to convince one of them to be the best man at his wedding. After a dozen failed attempts, he makes up a bunch of names in a lie to his fiancée Gretchen (Cuoco-Sweeting) and suddenly has to find actual guys to be his groomsmen. He’s referred to a company called The Best Man, Inc, and before you think that this is the sequel to the movie The Best Man, we meet Hart’s Jimmy Callahan who has made a career out of showing up to liven up weddings for a fee.
It’s a pretty simple premise that immediately makes you wonder how a loser with no male friends like Gad’s Doug could score someone like Cuoco, but but soon Hart shows up to do what he does best. Doug’s situation of having to fill his entire wedding part seems like an impossibility that Jimmy refers to multiple times as “The Golden Tux”—which just so happens to be the equally bad original title for this movie. Jimmy proceeds to assemble a motley crew of losers and outcasts to portray Doug’s friends and we watch a montage of that group hanging out with Doug so that they can bond and get to know each other before the wedding, going to great lengths to back-up his lie.
There’s no need to go into too much detail about all these groomsmen’s various quirks and eccentricities—none of them veer too far away from the model created in Revenge of the Nerds– but when Doug comments that they look like “The Goonies, all grown-up and turned into rapists,” it may be the funniest line in the whole movie. That gives you some idea how unfunny this movie is.
Now, I actually like Kevin Hart and have for some time and he does just fine with the material and the character even if he doesn’t have much to work with. Much of the time he seems to just be riffing, something that he can do far better than anyone else in the cast. As far as Josh Gad, I’m not sure Kevin James will necessarily be calling to ask for his career back, but he’s somehow gone from being perfectly respectable comic relief in movies like 21 and turned into one of those annoying buffoons who constantly resorts to pratfalls in order to try to get laughs.
Most of the humor falls as flat as Gad does, on its face, so much so that The Wedding Ringer’s motto could very well have been, “If at first you don’t succeed… set Cloris Leachman on fire,” because that’s exactly how an awkward dinner—think Meet the Parents—ends. Cloris Leachman deserves better than that. Similarly misused but possibly the best part of the movie is Olivia Thirlby as Gretchen’s sister who is immediately skeptical of Doug’s best man and his credentials as a “military priest” and rightly so.
Garelick isn’t a particularly good comedy director, not really bringing out the best in his weak cast. Unlike dozens of other better comedies where the supporting cast can hold their own against the leads, everyone in this seems to be flailing to try and keep up with Hart, including Gad.
Having an R rating basically allows Hart to string together as many expletives as possible, but other than the excessive use of the F-word and a few stray boobs, there’s nothing in the movie that really justifies the rating. What Garelick considers edgy is a bachelor party with a faux-Russian stripper who smears peanut butter on Doug’s junk and sics a beagle to lick it off. If you’ve seen any Farrelly Brothers movie, you can guess what happens next.
In some ways, you can blame Todd Phillips for the existence of this movie because it’s obviously trying to be a comedy that falls somewhere between Old School and The Hangover without ever being as funny as either. It resorts to mildly racist comments and homophobic stereotypes (in the form of the wedding planner) far too often to be acceptable.
Part ways through the film, the filmmakers feel the need to give Hart’s character a little bit of… well… heart… and he starts to warm up to Doug. From that point on, the movie basically goes exactly where you might expect it in terms of all the carefully-laid plans going wrong, but the relationship between the two guys remaining solid after their business transaction. You can’t get too mad, because there really isn’t anywhere else for the movie to go with such a weak plot.
The Bottom Line:
Hard as it tries, The Wedding Ringer is spectacularly unfunny, proving that you can’t just throw Kevin Hart in a half-assed high-concept comedy and expect it to deliver on the laughs. Then again, we should have learned that lesson after Grudge Match, which is a better movie than this.