The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Wedding Ringer

Kevin Hart is one of the funniest people working in the entertainment business today, but his movies have yet to be worthy of his immense talent. Ride Along had its moments, and About Last Night was good-but-not-great. They were hits, as were the two Think Like a Man pictures, but I keep waiting for Hart to make the movie that really defines him as a screen comedian. So far, it hasn't happened, and based on The Wedding Ringer, it'll be a little longer until it does.

Josh Gad (who famously voiced Olaf the snowman in Frozen) plays Doug Harris, a guy with no friends and a super-hot fiancee, Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting). As their wedding day approaches, he's dealing with the fact that he has no Best Man and no groomsmen. For help, he turns to Jimmy Callahan (Hart), a guy who runs a business providing such things for dudes without buddies. Jimmy takes the Best Man role and rounds up a sad-sack group of pretenders to be Doug's half of the wedding party. ("They look like the cast of The Goonies grew up and became rapists," Doug observes.) The hitch is that they all have to convince Gretchen that they're legit; Doug has lied to her about having pals.

What ensues is straight out of a mediocre sitcom. The Wedding Ringer is one of those movies where all the characters have to be a little bit stupid in order for the plot to progress. Could Doug simply be honest with Gretchen? Sure, but then there would be nowhere for the story to go. And so the lies pile up, creating a mess from which it seems Doug may never extricate himself. The Wedding Ringer even has the requisite scene in which he has to spontaneously make up a name for his fictitious best friend, so he uses objects in front of him for inspiration. Hence, a Bic razor sitting next to a stick of Mitchum deodorant leads to the creation of “Bic Mitchum.” I don't know about you, but I first saw this joke in 1987, when Jon Cryer looked at a coffee can and dubbed himself “Maxwell Houser” in Hiding Out. That was twenty-eight years ago.

There's an annoying sense of contrivance to the film. Not only does it have to fabricate reasons for the main character to be dishonest, it also must create this absurd business Jimmy runs. There are lots of ways to comedically address issues of marital nervousness and social isolation without resorting to an implausible “hook.” The problem is, The Wedding Ringer is all hook. Very little about it ever seems genuine or authentic. That makes it less funny than it could have been were it even remotely relatable.

Surprisingly, given these not-insignificant flaws, the movie is not nearly as terrible as it might have been. That's because Hart and Gad have great comic chemistry together. They're an odd pairing, yet they feed off each other's rhythms quite well. The best moments in the film are the ones where the dopey plot recedes long enough for them to simply interact in a more organic way. There's a funny scene in which Jimmy and Doug practice their dance moves at somebody else's wedding; you just get to watch two funny guys being silly. A number of lines and interactions feel improvised between the actors, and they're the things that generate laughs because, unlike everything else here, they don't seem overly thought-out. The stars are so good together that it makes one want to see them given a much smarter script to work from.

Directed by Jeremy Garelick (co-writer of The Break-Up), The Wedding Ringer simply doesn't support its two leads. The contrivances are too distracting, and bits of raunchy humor are awkwardly forced in. Do we really need a scene where a dog fellates Doug? The movie often plays like a mid-2000s Jennifer Lopez rom-com forced against its will to be a hard-R guy comedy. Kevin Hart has undeniably got the stuff of greatness. The Wedding Ringer is not the vehicle he needs, though. Fingers crossed that maybe next time will be the charm.

( out of four)

The Wedding Ringer is rated R for crude and sexual content, language throughout, some drug use and brief graphic nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 41 minutes.

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