By Matthew McKibben | January 16, 2015
Director: Jeremy Garelick
Writers: Jeremy Garelick, Jay Lavender
Starring: Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Alan Ritchson, Josh Peck, Coris Leachman, Jorge Garcia, Mimi Rogers, and Ken Howard
As I drove home from The Wedding Ringer, I tried to remember the last great comedy that wowed me and made me laugh from beginning to end. There have been some decent comedies the past half-decade or so (The Hangover and Tropic Thunder come to mind), but coming up with a list of the classic comedies of the past decade was much harder than I thought. Coming up with a list of great dramas of 2014 alone is pretty easy to do, so I was shocked I couldn’t think up 5 great comedies of the past decade; I guess the saying is true, comedy is harder than drama.
Sorry to begin on such a tangent, but I’ve always been curious as to why comedy movies that should work, don’t. The pieces are all there with The Wedding Ringer. It stars Kevin Hart, who is currently enjoying a wildly successful standup career, has a popular show on BET (Real Husbands of Hollywood) and is on a bit of a hot streak at the box office (About Last Night, Think Like a Man, and Ride Along). You’d have to be pretty dense to deny that Kevin Hart is one of the biggest stars working today. The movie also stars Josh Gad, who had a bit of a star turning performance as the comedic snowman Olaf in last year’s Frozen. Even the screenwriter (Jeremy Garelick, also directed) has The Break-Up under his belt. So while The Wedding Ringer has at least some of the necessary elements of a good comedy, it doesn’t really come together cohesively in any kind of memorable way. The Wedding Ringer has to settle for being a comedy that’s intermittently funny, but not one that we’ll be talking about years later.
Gad stars as Doug Harris, a wealthy yet shy lawyer with no friends and no personal life, yet is somehow in a relationship with the highly personable and insanely attractive Gretchen Palmer (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting). With their wedding only a couple weeks away and Doug’s groomsmen list having zero names on it, he turns to Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart), a local businessman who runs a side business providing “best friend” duties to friendless men like Doug. In a nutshell, Jimmy learns everything he can about the groom, as well as the groom’s and bride’s families, and then uses his slick charm to con everyone into thinking that he’s known the groom for decades. Jimmy assures each client that the relationship is strictly business, even though some of the grooms grow convinced that they had actually become friends. At the conclusion of each wedding, he severs nearly all ties to the groom and is on to the next wedding.
This movie would have possibly felt fresh and new had it come out in the early aughts when the script was first written with Vince Vaughn in mind to star. It seems to hit all of the early 2000s comedic bullet points; overt stereotypes (race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.), gross out humor, overly sexualized situations that don’t feel real, unexpected lunacy involving the families of the bride and groom, etc. The script was a tad too by the numbers and tonally uneven, to the point of being distracting. I told my wife about the movie, and she practically guessed the movie’s plot note for note. If you’ve seen one of these movies, you’ve seen them all. Most of The Wedding Ringer played the comedy and situations really straight, but there were times when the movie would take an unexpected turn into sheer craziness — it was during those times that I found myself laughing the hardest.
Hart and Gad are good enough comedic actors that they both rise above the script’s limitations. Don’t get me wrong; although the script is uneven and the direction is almost nonexistent, there were quite a few times that I found myself laughing pretty heartily. The two have a good chemistry and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them star in more movies together. Despite them both getting laughs and being funny, I’ve always felt that Hart is better as a secondary lead than as the leading man. Part of what feels off about The Wedding Ringer is that Gad and Hart are both secondary options, not leads. Hart has a movie coming out later this year with Will Ferrell and I’m already more interested in that one than this one, simply because of Ferrell’s track record as a lead and Hart’s track record as a supporting actor.
But I laughed and I guess that really should be the main criteria for any comedy — did I laugh, did I laugh a lot? Yes to the first, not really on the second. This movie doesn’t have a high number of laughs, but it had a fairly good heart and enough decent laughs sprinkled throughout that I give it a slight recommendation if you’re in the mood for brainless fun, especially if you’re viewing it via home viewing on DVD or Netflix.