Is true love real?
The Wedding Ringer drags you in with the semblance of being yet another rom-com listlessly answering this question. As the film progresses, however, it shifts its attention towards the benefits of friendship, making for a story that is still predictable but at least creative in its attitude towards modern relationships.
The movie follows lovable, friendless Doug (Josh Gad) as he tries to elevate himself in the eyes of Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), the alleged woman of his dreams, as their wedding approaches. To do so, Doug enlists the help of Jimmy (Kevin Hart), who makes his living by acting as a close friend to lonely men in need of a best man.
Director Jeremy Garelick uses his resources well for most of the film. Gad and Hart are fully capable of producing laughs simply by making each other uncomfortable, and many of the scenes quickly explode into effective slapstick. Gad’s physical comedy and Hart’s accents, volume, and other Chris Rock-esque exclamations mix well, perhaps setting the stage for further onscreen collaboration.
Doug’s manufactured groomsmen also provide violent, outrageous comedy. While certain scenes feel drawn out — as if 100 minutes was a stretch for Garelick and co-screenwriter Jay Lavender — the ensemble largely serves its purpose. Led by Jorge Garcia (Lost) and Alan Ritchson (THE Thad Castle from Blue Mountain State), the ragtag group entertains with their physical quirkiness alone.
As one might expect with a buddy comedy filled with ostentatious stars, the script and story struggle to maintain their sharpness as the movie comes to a close. Doug and Jimmy encounter myriad shenanigans, and Gad and Hart do everything they can, but the jokes are steadily hit-or-miss. Perhaps more of the time wasted on bachelor parties and hostile football with the father-in-law could have been spent allowing the stars to show off their abilities — singing, dancing, and otherwise.
Where The Wedding Ringer deserves the most credit is in its resolutions. Having scuffled to build to the climactic scenes, the film wakes up in time to deliver a clever and refreshing final number. The story hints at deeper emotional turmoil for both Doug and Jimmy throughout but goes beyond a simple “boy with no friends meets boy with no friends, and they become friends” arc. Garelick and his team complicate the characters to the point of questioning their respective life paths. Instead of their budding friendship validating their choices, it upends them. Doug’s impending marriage and Jimmy’s pseudo-friendly business are victims rather than benefactors of the manmade relationship, a surprising turn that augments the otherwise pedestrian story.
Is true love real?
Countless movies have answered this relentless, nagging question in the affirmative in the course of both rom-com and buddy movie history, but The Wedding Ringer strives to do so in a new way, combining the bros and hoes together into a muddled and thought-provoking picture of modern friendship and love. The film as a whole lacks the dramatic firepower to offer any profound take on these topics, but seeing a director break the archetypal molds of his genre on any level is refreshing.
The laughs come and go, but overall their magnitude seems best-suited to filling a living room rather than a cinema. Hart and Gad make for a promising team, but their talent can be utilized more fully. The film has something to say but does not quite get it out. Regardless, it tries, and that should be commended.