REVIEW: The Wedding Ringer [2014]

Score: 4/10 | ★ ½

Rating: R | Runtime: 101 minutes | Release Date: January 16th, 2014 (USA)
Studio: Miramax / Screen Gems / Sony Pictures Releasing
Director(s): Jeremy Garelick
Writer(s): Jeremy Garelick & Jay Lavender

“Sock on put”

The writing team behind The Break-Up is back nine years later with their latest comedy The Wedding Ringer. While not a slog like their first feature—I found it painful at times—Jeremy Garelick (who also directs) and Jay Lavender‘s increased entertainment value unfortunately comes at the price of the whole being a complete mess. Jamming in as many comedy tropes as possible to create this genre Frankenstein’s monster, you’ll find yourself laughing at Wedding Crashers-level raunch one moment, wading through a flipped The Wedding Planner-esque plot full of career-driven speeches and second-guessing in love another, and being forced to endure an out-of-the-blue sequence of The Hangover absurdity the next. I can take a lot of nonsense, but don’t go adding a cartoonish car chase complete with impossible ramp trick when you’ve already steeped your film in reality.

Even if you look past the stupidity of a Roto-Rooter truck out-running a police car, the physics-bending notion that it could vault over a bridge gap thanks to a rough mound of gravel, or the fact that the owner of the vehicle (Jorge Garcia‘s Lurch) would be arrested and not the crippled, elderly driver who has no connection to it whatsoever (Robert Towers), it’s just not funny. The stunt takes you out of what had been a believable, albeit over-the-top, world wherein the groom (Josh Gad‘s Doug Harris) doesn’t even allow a stripper (Nicky Whelan‘s Nadia) to do anything his mind would construe as cheating. The filmmakers instead let a dog do the job in yet another out-there gag, but even that only earned a sideways glare as opposed to the car chase checking me out completely.

The movie had promise too—I was actually excited to see it. The idea of someone making a living by pretending to be a stranger’s Best Man is inspired and casting a comedian with Kevin Hart‘s charisma and manic excitement is a slam-dunk. His Jimmy Callahan has crafted a set of rules to ensure everything is purely of a business nature, embodying each role with professionalism and remaining busy enough to not notice his own solitary lifestyle until the script requires him to for its play at bromance poignancy. Gad’s Doug needing seven groomsmen in less than ten days also lends it a sense of urgency and supplies a reason for Jimmy to acquire a motley crew of eccentrics. To pull-off the “Golden Tux” he must be quick on his feet and hopeful no one screws anything up.

That’s obviously easier said than done when one of your actors (Aaron Takahashi‘s Endo) pulls down his pants to expose his third testicle as a party trick and another (Colin Kane‘s Fitzgibbons) just got out of jail and hopes to get laid. Add the bride’s (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting‘s Gretchen) younger sister (Olivia Thirlby‘s Alison) sniffing the BS as soon as Jimmy enters their family home in character as the manufactured Bic Mitchum and it becomes a race against time to say, “I do”. Or at least it should turn into one. Thinking that far ahead or crafting the screenplay to allow for a coherence of tone seems out of Garelick and Lavender’s grasp because they’d rather just move to each subsequent phase of the journey by jamming square pegs into round holes because the result tickles their funny bone.

Need the bride to turn into a bitch? Do it on a dime with no warning other than our assumption that the tired trope was a foregone conclusion anyway. Need added conflict by letting Thirlby question the ruse? Do it, then forget about it, and ultimately bring it back when it suits you because we’re moronic enough to let you and ignore her character being a one-dimensional pawn. You have to pounce on these avenues of conflict. Turn Gretchen into a mean girl early and add to Jimmy’s wavering conscience by having her be aware of the farce and okay with it to get the marriage done. Make Alison a pesky detective for the duration so Jimmy’s on his toes more than once before calling it a day. Silly comedies need more than a checklist of skits too.

There was potential to go absolutely, no-looking-back crazy and I’d have preferred that to this unsure hybrid. I thought they were going that direction after seeing the horribly Photoshopped pictures on Jimmy’s wall of past weddings because why else would you superimpose Hart’s head on stock images instead of staging real photos to give them authenticity? That was the opening to throw away all sense of reality, but they didn’t take it. The filmmakers would rather affix their cart to an insanely offensive series of events that lambasts gays, Jews, Blacks, Latinos, and more (sometimes simultaneously) in as lazy a way as possible. There’s a point where a “no one is safe” mentality becomes plain ol’ bigotry and The Wedding Ringer hits it—especially when it needs its central WASP family to bankroll every antic.

Not all is lost, though. A scene where Hart takes Gad to a wedding as a sort of dry run possesses all the life and fun I’d hoped the rest would deliver. The pair dances together without a care in the world and really puts the chemistry we know is going to test Jimmy’s resolve of cutting ties with his clients to the limits. Beyond that there’s little to truly enjoy. Cloris Leachman is completely wasted, an inspired two-hand touch game led by Ken Howard and Joe Namath undercooked, and the utter lack of sex a surprisingly welcome trait letting the film focus on Gad and Hart’s relationship over unnecessary flings while it also more than likely angers a target audience coming specifically for nudity. Like the “Golden Tux” itself, the movie simply has too many moving parts.

[1] Josh Gad stars as Doug Harris and Kevin Hart stars as Jimmy Callahan/Bic in Screen Gems’ The Wedding Ringer (2015). Photo credit by Matt Kennedy.
[2] The groomsmen from Screen Gems’ The Wedding Ringer (2015).
[3] Kevin Hart stars as Jimmy Callahan/Bic and Josh Gad stars as Doug Harris in Screen Gems’ The Wedding Ringer (2015). Photo credit by Matt Kennedy.

One Thought to “REVIEW: The Wedding Ringer [2014]”

  1. ‘The Wedding Ringer’ is that curious one in a million type film. Allow me to elaborate. The first thirty minutes or so are actually surprisingly entertaining and energetic. But after the half hour mark the fun considerably starts to thin and evapourate. Perhaps I should start at the beginning.

    The main and stand out stars of the film are Josh Gad and Kevin Hart. Gad plays Doug Harris who is getting married to Gretchen Palmer who is played by Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting with the depth of a female role in a Michael Bay film. Harris starts ringing his “friends” in the opening title sequence, which actually gains a decent amount of laughs in the process. All of them are unavailable and the excuses get more and more lame as he asks anyone no matter how long he has known them, whether they will be his Best Man for the Wedding. It goes from bad to worse when he has no members on the Groom’s side to help him out.

    He discovers that a man by the name of Jimmy Callahan provides Best Man services for people that are short of reliable friends. However, what he does not provide is a whole group of people for the wedding. Harris eventually convinces Callahan and then Harris agrees to pay him even when the price is substantial. He calls Callahan by the alter ego of his “Best Man” Bic Mitchum. Harris has to pretend that he has known Bic for a very long period of time and for a while it works. Not because he is clever but because his parents and girlfriend are inexplicably dumb and borderline retarded. How they do not realize that this is a blatant lie is plain stupid. As several incidents occur where his parents are getting to the bottom of how Harris knows Bic, only to be interrupted at the very last second. Maybe they should get their brains scanned.

    As I only briefly mentioned above for the first thirty minutes the proceedings are funny, rude and obviously crude. But the key thing is that they work. I have to admit that in several of the early sequences I was laughing uncontrollably. The film at this point was tip toeing the line between funny and repulsive. Unfortunately for ‘The Wedding Ringer’, an immolation gag later and it strides across the line and becomes horrid and actually quite nasty and vicious. I think after this point I mildly chuckled three times and that was mainly out of pity and disappointment. This is due to the combined charm of Josh Gad, Kevin Hart and the ensemble cast who try their utmost best to keep their dignity and the film together.

    I bought Josh Gad as a lovable loser because he never thinks too highly of himself and lacks confidence, even when he succeeds in his endeavors. Think of a larger, even less sure of himself Sam Gamgee and you are halfway there. His fiancée is beautiful but she is so poorly written that she is in need of some brain cells to make her character at least feel three- dimensional. He questions whether she really does feel the same way about him and whether he is the husband that she needs him to be. Okay. Not the biggest dilemma I know. But it is a comedy and the problems are always solved in a minute anyway. I actually felt for his character even when the film was vile, so there is that I guess. Kevin Hart brings charisma and likability to his role that gives the film an illusion of having a heart and a soul. It must be said that without Josh Gad and Kevin Hart I would have walked out of the cinema long ago.

    After a while the film gets bogged down in the core relationship that is as irritating as a wasp that keeps flying around your head. Leading the film to sadly become boring, too long and painfully unfunny, as it ends up lacking the jokes that made the first act fairly enjoyable and a guilty pleasure at the least. All I remember of the second act is the relationship struggles and there is no substance present there. Leading me to ask myself the question, why should I even care? Regarding the third act I would rather have amnesia than remember that sorry affair. It ends up being the lowest common denominator of comedy. Homophobic. If you want me to like your film here is a tip Director do not use this comedy. It is relentless, aggressive and hurtful. It ruins the charm and likability of the first act. I ended up hating ‘The Wedding Ringer’ and that is the honest truth.

    After a funny and charm filled first act ‘The Wedding Ringer’ is not content to let the actors have light hearted, playful and enjoyable fun. Instead we are treated with dire relationship drama we have all seen countless times before, tired gags, hateful homophobic jokes and tones upon tones of clichés. If you are asked to be Best Man for this Wedding decline immediately and sign up anywhere else.

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