There is a great moment in The Wedding Ringer where Kevin Hart’s secretary has to tell him that guys aren’t so good at sharing their emotions, and that’s why they can be so lonely. It’s an obvious point, but it’s one of the realities that makes this comedy so well-crafted. On the surface, it’s a huge blustering ridiculous farce going for easy laughs from boldly drawn characters, but at its core it’s a love story, a love story between two friendless men who find each other and the meaning of having a ‘best man.’
I have to admit I was not going into The Wedding Ringer with much hope. These sort of comedies are generally not my typical choice and the last two HANGOVER sequels pretty much ‘cured’ me of any desire to see bromedies. The premise was rammed into me through overexposure on television and pre-film ads; Kevin Hart in a 30 second bit, all silly voices and funny faces, elicits only the desire to punch him in the face. However, once the film got going, it became clear the film goes much deeper than that. As Jimmy Callahan (Hart) explains to future client Doug Harris (Josh Gad), the average number of friends a man has, true friends not fake facebook friends, has gone from 3 to 2 in the last few years and yet there 2.4 million weddings a year. Callahan provides a much needed service to those who for some reason or another do not have a ‘best man’ to ask to stand up for them. He even assures Doug that he’s not a loser, he’s a loner. Only Doug doesn’t want to be a loner. Like many of Jimmy’s previous clients, Doug starts to blur the line between what he has paid for and the life he wishes he really had, especially after a crazy bachelor party with his seven hired groomsmen.
The film is hilarious, but it is also sweet and life-affirming. The characters, though they are big, also come from a place of reality. Not that this is August: Osage County, it’s just not Big Momma’s House. Kevin Hart shows a surprising amount of range, in addition to drop dead timing (the way he can change a delivery in a nano-second is pretty fantastic). Also fantastic is the film’s ‘straight man’ Josh Gad, who I have been rooting for since I saw him in the touring company of the 25th ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE. Then he had a great role as a TV news director on the criminally-cancelled BACK TO YOU (with Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton, and also Ty Burrell and Fred Willard – how ever did this show get cancelled!!!!).
The groomsmen include Jorge Garcia (Hugo from Lost), Alan Ritchson (Aquaman from Smallville) and Aaron Takahashi, who to me will always be the guy lifting his arms in the air as he sings alone in his car to Kansas’s “Point of No Return” in the State Farm Commercial (seriously, has anyone else ever made such an impression in 4 seconds?).
If I have one quarrel with the film, it’s in the third act. Throughout the film, Jimmy Callahan warns how difficult pulling off the reception will be. He calls it the Golden Tux – where the entire wedding party is fake and no one in the family is ‘in’ on it. In fact, the con element of the film was what made it so fun, it had more of a kinship with OCEAN’S 11 (especially in getting a team together) than so many other ‘wedding’ comedies. However, when the big day arrived and we got to the reception, there are only a few moments of the groomsmen doing their ‘party distractions’ to throw off the guests, and then it moves on to the toast and a quick ending to the movie. Although the play out of the film is fully justified by the plot, it doesn’t really fulfill the expectations of a giant set piece sequence to close the story as had been promised, so I was left a little disappointed, with the least effective part of the film being the ending – never a winning combination.
That being said, THE WEDDING RINGER is certainly worth a watch, either as a date movie or when it runs endlessly on cable in 18 months. It won’t be the next DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR (which I will defend until my death) but it’s also not JUWANNA MANN.
MEET BIC MITCHUM