Once again we find ourselves in the frozen wasteland that is January, February, and March at the movies. This is the traditional dumping ground in which studios release those movies that they have no faith in, basically to fill time between the re-releases of their Award-Season movies and their early summer blockbusters (yes, I will see Seventh Son – which I have no doubt will be this year’s Season of the Witch…hopefully Ron Perlman is it). If you’re lucky, you can find a hidden treasure or two in this season – a surprising comedy or a fun, nonsense, fantasy action movie. The Wedding Ringer is close to being a comedy treasure, but I feel like it comes up just short (that was an unintentional Kevin Hart pun).
I am a huge Kevin Hart fan. I find him completely hilarious, and I really enjoy both his stand-up and his BET show – The Real Husbands of Hollywood (it’s streaming on Netflix – watch it now if you haven’t yet). Kevin Hart is basically the Donald Driver of comedy, he may not be the funniest or smartest, but no one (NO ONE) is going to out-work him or out-hustle him. He works almost non-stop, and works hard to make comedy that is wide-ranging with appeal across all demographics.
In the Wedding Ringer, Hart plays Jimmy Callahan, a slick business man who rents himself out as a Best Man for hire for grooms in pinch, who find themselves suddenly without a Best Man or enough Groomsmen for their upcoming wedding. We also meet Doug Harris – who is a hard-working ‘nice guy’ about to marry a ‘hot chick’ named Gretchen. Doug is shocked to learn that he has no friends and no one to turn to for Best Man duties. His wedding planner directs him to Jimmy, who at first balks at having to find 7 additional groomsmen, but then agrees to help for a huge fee. From there – hijinks ensue, and over the course of the movie (spoiler alert) both Doug and Jimmy try to stay in a business relationship, but realize that they have become good friends.
Therein lies both the genius and the weakness of this movie. Both Hart and Gad are hilarious, and have a great rapport. It feels like they could improv with one another for hours. And the majority of the movie is hilarious. Scenes like Jimmy learning that Doug told his bride-to-be that his Best Man “Bic Mitchum” is a priest in the army are just as funny as you want them to be. Also hilarious are scenes where “Bic” meets her family, and the introduction of the very random group of groomsmen. I loved the scene where the groomsmen fake a lot of photos from the past of fun trips and activities they’ve done, and where they each determine their party distraction to use in case they get cornered at the event. However, scenes at the bachelor party go from funny to gross, and the football game between the groomsmen and the father-of-the-bride’s buddies go from funny to mean. It felt a little like the movie tried to push for the R rating with a few scenes that it honestly did not need. It could have pulled it in a little tighter, and gone with the PG13 and a little more funny.
The movie is directed by Yale Graduate Jeremy Garelick (I threw in Yale Graduate so you could be impress by him), and while he did write the Vince Vaughn/Jennifer Aniston Break Up (which was more depressing than funny – so tone-wise, very similar to this), this is his feature directing debut. I’m not sure that matters – I think he does a fine job, and honestly I think that directing matters less in a straight comedy than in other genres. Basically in this case, he just needs to point the camera at Hart, Gad, and the rest of the cast, and let them be funny.
- Kevin Hart plays Jimmy Callahan – and yes, as stated, I am a huge fan. He’s funny, and does what is known among my family as “Warbuton-ing” a line. Named for Patrick Warburton, it’s where an actor delivers a line in such a way that makes it hilarious, even if the writing itself is not that great. For an example, watch any episode of Rules of Engagement. The lines are not funny, but his delivery is. I almost would have preferred Kevin Hart a little more cut loose, but as it was, he was very funny – and I appreciated his work in some of the more quiet scenes when Jimmy starts to realize how empty his own life has become. He’s only going to get better as time goes on.
- Josh Gad is another up and coming comedic talent who has already been nominated for a Tony for his performance in the Broadway version of Book of Mormon. He’s been very quietly stacking up hilarious bit parts and best-friend roles. It’s good to see him starting to move more to the center of the cast. He’s charming and funny in this movie, and you really feel for him once Gretchen’s true colors are revealed.
- Speaking of Gretchen – Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting is capable of great comedy, as was proven first on 8 Simple Rules, then Charmed, and now less so on Big Bang Theory. She is funny – but is given next to nothing to do here. Honestly, the movie could have done with a little more of her and her crazy bridesmaids. She has a couple of moments, and then at the end, a sudden reveal of a personality that we saw glimpses of during the movie.
- Affion Crockett (who is one of those dudes that you have seen in everything) plays Reggie – one of the crazy groomsmen hired to fill out Doug’s roster. His party trick is some pretty crazy dancing.
- Jorge Garcia plays Lurch – another of the groomsmen fill-ins. He’s funny, he’s always been funny, and I look forward to seeing him in more movies, and yes – the last line of this movie is a Lost reference.
- Dan Gill plays groomsman Bronstein, and while his party trick of dislocating his shoulder is disgusting, he’s pretty funny for the rest of the time.
- Veteran Actor Ken Howard plays Gretchen’s horrible father, Ed Palmer. And I mean it when I say horrible, he’s an ass for what feels like no reason. There was a bit that had the potential to be hilarious in that he challenges the young guys to a football game, and ends up being friends with Joe Namath – but that sequence quickly goes from funny to mean, so I’m not sure it fit in.
- Also – this movie sets a record for having Cloris Leachman in it, and using her NOT AT ALL. She is hilarious, has been for years, and they do not use her. She becomes a visual joke. Bad call, guys.
- Hart’s Think Like A Man co-star Jenifer Lewis plays his co-worker/secretary in this movie. She inserts some heartfelt wisdom just when he needs it the most. It was refreshing to see her play something a little different than she has been playing everywhere else recently (but only a little different).
- Also – Smallville’s Aquaman, Alan Ritchson, plays Kip – one of the groomsman. He’s given a stutter, for no good reason (stutters seem to be go-to bits in comedies, and guess what? Sometimes they are just not funny). The rest of his performance was pretty funny, and shows some potential for him in future oddball comedies. I did try to pull up a picture of him to put here, but apparently he has done some underwear modeling, so I don’t recommend Google-ing images of him at work – but when you get home – I really do recommend you Google images of him! Here’s a picture of him from Smallville:
- Mimi Rogers is also completely unused as Gretchen’s mother, and Olivia Thirlby shows up as her sister, and could have used more development than to just be suspicious of “Bic” through the movie.
Honestly, the pieces were all there, and the majority of them work really well. The groomsmen were all funny, kidnapping Doug for his bachelor party was funny, then having a dog clamp down on his genitals for the remainder of the party was not funny. This movie seemed like it could not decide if maybe it wanted to throw in a little low, slapstick, blue humor for that R rating. The truth is, it would have been funnier if they had skipped the dog, and setting grandma on fire (seriously) and just kept with more scenes of Doug trying to bond with his fake friends, or even a few scenes with Gretchen and her friends. Oh well – it’s close, but no cigar.
6 out of 10 – Gained points for the dance sequence; lost points for the bachelor party. Gained points for the rehearsal dinner; but lost points for the wedding reception – which should have gone on longer.
Bonus Video 1– Wedding Crashers, another rated R comedy that could have been streamlined into a PG13.
Bonus Video 2 – About Last Night – a rated R romantic comedy where Kevin Hart really shines.
Bonus Video 3 – Cast Interviews