Movie Review: The Wedding Ringer

Jimmy a/k/a Bic (Kevin Hart) and Doug (Josh Gad) in “The Wedding Ringer”

Does The Wedding Ringer espouse some fun? Read on!

By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)

Another matrimonial comedy? You’d think that the ceaseless cinematic march to the altar has made the wedding aisle runner as thin as the fanatically dieting bride on her special day. In the last few decades, we’ve been invited to witness such filmed fetes as (in reverse chronological order): The Big Wedding, Bachelorette, Bridesmaids, The Hangover, I Love You, Man, Bride Wars,  27 Dresses, Made of Honor, Mamma Mia!, The Heartbreak Kid, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, The 40-Year Old Virgin, The Wedding Crashers, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, The Wedding Planner, Monsoon Wedding, Runaway Bride, and the not-to-be-confused title, The Wedding Singer.

Whew … you’d think that by now, the studios would be saying “I don’t.”

Foreground: Doug (Josh Gad) and Jimmy a/k/a Bic (Kevin Hart) in “The Wedding Ringer”

But given the clever counterbalance of the zippy, motor-mouthed Kevin Hart against the slow rhythms of the funny yet poignant Josh Gad, this bromantic comedy works. (Even though the plot initially seems reminiscent of 2009’s I Love You, Man, in which Paul Rudd’s bridegroom suddenly realizes that he has no close friends and must scramble to find a stranger (Jason Segel) who will step in as his best man. But unlike Jason Segel’s increasingly bizarre new bud, Kevin Hart’s Jimmy is a professional, having stumbled into a specialized niche of filling the needs of workaholic men who’ve never had the time to devote themselves to gathering up a gaggle of bros. When these men find themselves bereft of a candidate for best man as their weddings near, they turn to Jimmy. He’ll spin anecdotes about a deep friendship, don appropriate wigs, dance at assorted nuptials with manufactured joy and deliver deeply sincere toasts — hell, grooms couldn’t pay for a better best man. And as the best, Jimmy exacts a hefty fee. A fee that Josh Gad’s friendless Doug will happily pay.

The process of discovering this project was a Hollywood plot unto itself. It took the, um, unbridled determination of The Wedding Ringer‘s producer Adam Fields to burrow through the defunct Miramax trove of 642 abandoned screenplays in the hopes of finding a gem or two. And he struck proverbial gold when he happened upon “The Golden Tux,” written by Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender (co-writers of 2006’s The Break-Up). Retitled The Wedding Ringer, director/co-writer Garelick initially based the plot on a true story: Years past, he was approached out of the blue by a little-known high school friend who desperately needed a groomsman for his impending wedding. Garelick complied, stepping up to the occasion by enthralling the crowd with fictional stories about the merits of his dear friend. “At the end of the night I thought to myself, I should be getting paid for being at this wedding. And then it hit me, I should write a screenplay about this experience.”

The Garelick/Lavender film wastes no time, diving into the situation as soon as the curtain rises. We meet decent, hard-working Doug (Josh Gad) who is sweating through relic rolodexes in the hopes of unearthing a best man, as well as seven groomsmen who can walk down the aisle with the bridesmaids who’ve been chosen by his not-so-blushing bride Gretchen (The Big Bang Theory‘s Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting). The movie quickly cuts to Hart’s Jimmy, his afro wig slipping as he parties hearty at a swanky rooftop wedding before giving a tearful, heartfelt speech about the newlyweds. And then he bloodlessly collects his paycheck from the grateful bridegroom before reminding him that there is no friendship between the two of them; it’s a business deal only.

Doug (Josh Gad) and Jimmy a/k/a Bid (Kevin Hart) in “The Wedding Ringer”

With belly laughs that sometimes rival those in Bridesmaids, this raucous comedy is just damn fun. Stand-out scenes include Jimmy auditioning seven wannabe groomsmen; his eulogy as a Jewish Ethiopian in a yarmulke; and a dance routine between the two leads that’s worth the price of the ticket alone. Comedy aside, the screenplay makes some apt references to the facebookian demise of interpersonal friendship, as well as observations of modern-day weddings turned into female-driven carnivals.

But it’s the casting that makes the movie. The filmmakers have created a perfect showcase for Hart, showcasing his frenetic comedy wrapped up in his own brand of smarts. As for Josh Gad (Love & Other Drugs, 21, Broadway’s The Book of Mormon), he delivers a character who is less of a nerd than a social naïf, having dedicated himself to his family’s business above all. As a first-time feature director, even amid all the onscreen antics, Garelick shows a certain savvy by allowing the camera to occasionally linger on Gad’s face, long enough for us to perceive a lonely soul who’s genuinely hungry for true love and friendship.

That said, this getting hitched story sports a few hitches along the way. Three of the exaggerated slapstick scenes go on much too long, as does the “buck-up” speech delivered by Jimmy’s gal Friday (Jenifer Lewis). And Cloris Leachman is sadly wasted as the all-but-mute Grandma, relegated to spend the majority of her time onscreen looking like a hellish rendition of Batman’s white-faced Joker.

By classic definition, the term “comedy” denotes a happy ending. Yet given Hollywood’s routinely humorless, anemic offerings that allow a fleeting euphoria – only due to the fact that the so-called comedy has finally concluded — it’s a delight that The Wedding Ringer shares its happy ending with us. It’s as plain as the grins on our faces.

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Rating on a scale of 5 instances of grooming oneself: 3.5

Release Date: January 16, 2015
Directed by: Jeremy Garelick
Written by: Jeremy Garelick & Jay Lavender
Cast: Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Olivia Thirlby, Jenifer Lewis, Ignacio Serricchio, Nicky Whelan, Jorge Garcia, Dan Gill, Ken Howard
Running Time: 101 minutes
Rating: R

Here’s the trailer:

About Kimberly Gadette

Film critic Kimberly Gadette, born and raised in movie-centric L.A., believes celluloid may very well be a part of her DNA. Having received her BA and MFA from UCLA's School of Theater, Film & Television, she spent many of her formative years as an actress (film, tv, commercials, stage) before she literally changed perspective, finding a whole new POV from the other side of the camera. You can find her last 500+ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/kimberly-gadette/). Other than taking the occasional side trip to Cannes or Sundance, you can find her at the movies ... sitting in the dark as usual.

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