The Wedding Ringer offers what you might call the ridiculous mess you might expect from a film that sees a Jewish man hire a fast talking short black man as his best man and 7 other men, consisting of a rapey ex con, a borderline sex offender and a definite sex offender among others, to be his groom’s men. This film doesn’t bring lots invention or even coherence but I won’t brush it off completely because it did bring tons of laughs and the screening I sat through was surprisingly packed and the atmosphere was real sprightly. It is enjoyable in moments, a couple of which are quite organic but they are far and few between.
Director Jeremy Garelick’s film pits Josh Gad (voice of Olaf) and Kevin Hart together and on reflection, they did have a decent chemistry but there were just too many distractions to keep them from rubbing off us. Gad plays Doug Harris, a successful tax attorney and overall nice guy who thinks he has lucked out in finding the pretty, definitely out of his league, blonde Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting). We see in Gretchen that broadly drawn bride-to-be who is controlling, obsessive and all that jazz. Gretchen is hyped up and all but poor Doug doesn’t have friends and hence no best man. Now I’m a bit of a loner but I find that a tad preposterous but then again I have a brother so I’m covered. Besides, a man in Doug’s position was bound to have some leeches or ass kissers.
On a tip from their flamboyant Latin wedding planner, he goes to see Jimmy Callahan (Hart), a best man for hire. Jimmy outlines the various best man for hire packages and he makes one thing clear, they are not friends and their contract ends once the knife goes through the cake. Jimmy recruits 7 other whack jobs to play longtime friends of Doug and the construction of elaborate and purposefully silly back stories begin. We want to believe they do this for the money but there are times it felt like there is way too much commitment. Jimmy and Doug really work well together and there are times the film threatens to attach some depth to their situation and experience with friendship but much like Jimmy’s constant reminder of the limits of their relationship, the film tiptoes around any semblance of a bromance and for long parts, just like Jimmy, it felt like it was trying too hard to remind us this was just an agreement not a friendship – spoiler alert: they end up good friends. Comedy wise, the duo produce one of the funniest film moments I’m seen in a while when they crash a wedding and steal the dance floor in a sequence that just continues to escalate into hilarity. It had me in tears.
The film offers little by way of surprises and most of the conflicts and questions spiral into a conclusion we expect. It checks some of the poisonous boxes comedies these days seem to be embracing like gratuitous crass and vulgar dialogue, an overindulgent pantomime lead and a total disregard for female characters. The film may have missed a trick in making more of the tension between Gretchen’s wary sister, Alison (Olivia Thirlby), and Jimmy. Instead it feels the need to have a poor dog fellate a grown man. Hart is probably up there box office wise and this film will rake in some bucks but he hasn’t moved my needle as a lead in any comedy as of yet. I shudder to say it but he may just be this generations Eddie Murphy and that is no slight on the once mammoth Murphy, it’s more of a slight on us. We did allow a film like Ride Along to set box office records. I don’t despise Hart as a comic actor. He has great energy and wit but I just think at this point he should be trying to do better and he can do better.