Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart) runs a best man service for socially challenged men who are unable to provide themselves with groomsmen for their wedding. Groom-to-be Doug Harris (Josh Gad) has has found himself in such a situation. With only two weeks remaining before he’s to be married to the love of his life, Gretchen Palmer (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), Doug and Jimmy attempt to fool Gretchen and her entire family as they carry out their best man charade which also includes seven fabricated groomsman.
A Kevin Hart comedy stuck in the middle of January doesn’t sound all that promising. I mean, who really wants a repeat of Ride Along? Oddly enough, though, this film didn’t turn out as horrible as I was anticipating it to be. Hold on, ’cause I’m not exactly recommending this. This is still a bad film, but when your expectations, which were originally buried somewhere around the Earth’s core, are exceeded, then I guess for lack of a better word you can say this was a success.
The fact that I somehow got more enjoyment out of this film than Michael Mann’s Blackhat means this is one of those “Day the world stopped turning” moments here at Silver Screen Fanatic.
To get any enjoyment out of this film, one first has to suspend an infinite amount of disbelief. The premise alone requires the bride and her entire side to be gullible idiots, and raises a number of questions (If Jimmy leaves once the wedding is over, and never reappears in the groom’s life again, wouldn’t the bride eventually wonder about that?). It also doesn’t help the film that it’s a little too similar to the much more heartfelt and funnier Paul Rudd/Jason Segel film I Love You, Man.
Of course, as I’ve said countless of times before, much can be forgiven in comedy if it can score laughs. The humor here, though, is more miss than hit, with the hits mainly coming from Kevin Hart and Josh Gad (the pseudo-backstories given to the ragtag team of groomsmen are fairly amusing as well). Beyond those two, director Jeremy Garelick (who co-wrote the script with Jay Lavender) relies heavily on dick jokes, tired physical schtick and an embarrassing Cloris Leachman cameo that wastes her talent on unfunny slapstick gags.
Why utilize her talent properly when you can just set her on fire? Yes, that’s funny.
Kevin Hart and Josh Gad are talented individuals. Hart’s standup can be hilarious and Gad (charming as Olaf in Frozen and one of the few strengths of the mediocre Jobs) is capable of both film and Broadway. The two have solid chemistry together and form a believable bond (Jimmy starts out as this being strictly business, but seriously, is it really a spoiler to say the inner conflict to bond is brewing within him?), and if any laughs are generated in this film it’s ’cause of those two and not the lousy material that they have. Hart, in particular, is more dialed down here than what we normally see from him. His bread and butter has always been his rapid fire, million words a minute ranting, and when he ratchets it up to 11 and hits shriek mode a little of it goes a long, long, loooong way (such as his extremely annoying turn in Think Like a Man Too). Here he’s much more controlled, and it shows that he really doesn’t have to fall back on the speed ranting all the time. If anything, his performance got me wondering what he could do with material that’s actually good.
Kaley Cuoco, on the other hand, is offered no favors (neither is a criminally underused Olivia Thirlby). Cuoco is quite the darling on the hit TV show The Big Bang Theory, but she’s anything but that here. As Gad’s fiancee, she’s a one-note, shallow, high-maintenance, queen bitch. That may have been Garelick and Lavender’s intention, but just a little more depth to allow her to not be so easy to hate would’ve been nice.
Both Kevin Hart and Josh Gad manage to squeeze out some laughs from this preposterously dopey premise, and Hart gives a more restrained performance than what we expect from him that shows potential for growth as an actor. However, in the end, The Wedding Ringer, while not as horrible as it could’ve been, falls flat as it depends too much on juvenile gags that wastes the talent of both lead actors.
I guess on the plus side I could say I expected worse.
I give The Wedding Ringer a C- (★★).