THE WEDDING RINGER
***1/2 (out of 5)
January 16, 2015
Kevin Hart as JIMMY CALLAHAN
Josh Gad as DOUG HARRIS
Affion Crockett as REGGIE
Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting as GRETCHEN PALMER
Jorge Garcia as LURCH
Dan Gill as BRONSTEIN
Corey Holcomb as OTIS
Studio: Screen Gems
Directed by: Jeremy Garelick
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Even before he became the comedy and box office juggernaut that he is today, I thought Kevin Hart was a really funny guy. The same goes for Josh Gad (though I’ll admit his voice in the wildly successful “Frozen” doesn’t exactly make him a juggernaut). And while I don’t see a long history of buddy comedies together in their future a la Laurel & Hardy, Martin & Lewis or Farley & Spade, the team has a great deal of chemistry together. This is one of the things that helps make “The Wedding Ringer” far better than it has any business being.
The story follows Jimmy Callahan (Hart), a entrepreneur who makes a living renting himself out (and sometimes his friends) to hapless grooms who don’t have enough people for their wedding parties. Gad plays Doug, an upwardly-mobile but kind of pathetic chump on the even of his wedding. Doug hires Jimmy to pull off a “golden tux,” which is to manufacture an entire slate of groomsmen and not get caught in the process.
The wedding comedy is nothing new, and we get one or two of these each year. So, there’s a lot of familiar ground covered – from the bachelor party to wedding day hijinks. We see a lot of things from better movies like “Bachelor Party” and “Wedding Crashers,” and fortunately stuff we don’t really remember from lesser movies like “The Five-Year Engagement.” In the hands of Hart and Gad, as well as a pretty comically talented supporting cast, things tend to work quite well.
Think of “The Wedding Ringer” as a symbol of a wedding you have to go to. It’s better than most, and if you aren’t afraid to let your hair down and hop on the dance floor, you can have a lot of fun. Is it the best wedding you’ll attend in your life? Not by a long shot, but doggone it if the movie doesn’t give it the good college try.
Okay, that’s enough cliches for now.
Both Hart and Gad are up-and-coming stars, with Hart farther up the ladder. However, he’s a generous comedian (which could result from his seemingly perpetual placement in films as the cinematic equivalent of the wacky neighbor when his box office numbers should demand otherwise), and Hart gives Gad plenty of chances to shine. At the same time, they both get out of the way for a strong supporting cast, particularly found in the other groomsmen that are painfully inappropriate but none-the-less funny.
I know it’s just a crappy January comedy, but I laughed at this movie – probably more than I really should have. It’s definitely rated R with plenty of crass moments, but it never tries to go over the top and make itself too much of a raunchy comedy. Even the most outrageous scene from the bachelor party (which does tend to knock the movie off the rails a bit) isn’t milked too much. And I suppose that’s the badge of honor this movie wears: It doesn’t try to hard; it just allows things to happen.
Kevin Hart doesn’t really need a doughy white guy to help him make a successful movie, but he’s not afraid of pairing up, either. Not everything needs to be supporting roles and lead spots opposite more veteran stars like Ice Cube. Though I will say that Hart seems at his best when he’s got someone to react to rather than have the entire film on his shoulders.
That’s not to say he lacks the skills to be a “serious” actor. He may very well have them, as we’ve seen happen with other comedic stars like Robin Williams and Bill Murray. Hart just doesn’t seem to be traveling that path right now, and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with just wanting to make people laugh.