The Wedding Ringer is a movie about the roles we play and the roles others assign us. As the central characters attempt to maintain their false personas, any chance they have at true happiness begins to erode. Along the way, Josh Gad manages to get his dick bitten by a basset hound and Kevin Hart lights an old woman on fire. But amidst all the debauchery, first time feature director and cowriter Jeremy Garelick’s new film pulses with a surprisingly charming heart. There’s some real emotion at the core of this vulgar comedy that makes for a wholly satisfying raunchy romp.
Gad stars as Doug Harris, a loveable loser who considers himself the luckiest guy in the world because he’s engaged to bombshell Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting). He has no clue how he got see lucky, but as their wedding looms his luck seems to have run out. Without any friends to be at his side on the big day, he hires out Jimmy Callahan (Hart) to act as best man under the ploy that they’ve been BFFs for years. Rescuing loser grooms is Callahan’s business and he’s damn good at it.
For a hefty price (think five digits), Callahan is the life of the party. He does his homework so he can deliver spot-on sappy best man speeches that are so moving, grooms typically beg for his continued companionship once the wedding is over. But Callahan keeps it all business. Getting paid and getting laid is the name of his game. No exceptions.
For Doug’s wedding Callahan has to bring out the heavy guns. He wrangles up a set of misfit groomsmen, including plumber Jorge Garcia, TSA agent Affion Crockett, and stuttering male stripper Alan Ritchson. The scenes where this ragtag ensemble gets to play off of each other are pretty damn funny. I’m unfamiliar with this Ritchson cat, but he absolutely nails the recurring blink-and-you-miss-it joke he’s given to do throughout the film.
There are plenty of these madcap moments throughout the film (mainly reserved for montages) though some of them can be painfully excessive. A football scene, for example, goes on far too long and does little to move the plot or characters forward. That and the bachelor party scene get tedious rather quick. The gags are fine, sure, but it feels like Garelick is letting the film run on autopilot.
The Wedding Ringer’s comedy is a very hard R, with Hart’s loudmouthed offensiveness coming out like a berserker vulgarity barrage at times. The gusto his tiny frame brings to the screen is undeniably powerful and in the scenes he shares with Gad, he makes Gad funnier. On the flip side, Gad manages to bring out Hart’s softer side – leading to some downright heartfelt moments between two characters grasping for happiness.
There’s some cheap and easy humor here and there (a pudgy white nerd can dance really well! Grandma said a dirty word!) but for every dick joke there are some clever gags spattered throughout. We’ve seen movies like The Wedding Ringer before, they’re not breaking any ground here, but the chemistry between Gad and Hart along with the solid supporting ensemble and charming heart of the story make for a really satisfying comedy.
Last January, Hart’s underrated Ride Along made about six times its budget. There’s a good chance The Wedding Ringer will do the same. Is Hart the comedy savior of the month typically reserved for studio movie dumps? It’s too early to say but if that’s the case, I’m cool with it.