The Wedding Ringer

Posted by Joel Copling on January 18, 2015

From the beginning, it's clear that Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart) is a slick businessman with a no-nonsense attitude about his profession. He runs The Best Man, Inc., which is exactly what it sounds like: for a considerable sum, he will perform all the duties of a best man at someone's wedding, but there are two stipulations--the first of them stated outright under the terms and conditions, the second an intentional act of deceit that puts a damper on our enjoyment of the premise. Jimmy will not become friends with his clients, and we see that early on when the latest client, one of many grooms in need, guesses wrongly that they had "hit it off." It's a bit callous to treat clients this way, we reason, but they are, after all, clients, and this is a business above all.

The more sinister outcome of this business is that it is basically a con job: Jimmy, as "best man," will adopt the identity of a distant friend of the groom in order to fool the family. Not only is this for the men who cannot find one or more groomsmen; it is for the men who cannot face up to telling the truth. That the film happens to be about one of these men (Doug Harris, played by Josh Gad) does not make him the exception to the rule, as we see Jimmy speak in character at the funeral of a client he didn't even like. Doug is almost an afterthought on a dramatic level, then, and so is his fiancee Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), parents-in-law Ed (Ken Howard) and Lois (Mimi Rogers), and sister-in-law (Olivia Thirlby, quite good in a nothing role).

It's easier to swallow that Jimmy isn't the greatest guy in the world, but his primary role in the film is as a slick businessman (It neither helps nor hinders that the character has zero development of which to speak, because total neutrality on a movie character probably isn't the best thing to have, either). It's even ok when Grandma Palmer (Cloris Leachman) is set ablaze by accident, because so much of this is zany in tone and situation. Much less forgivable is the treatment of Gad, whose Doug is an unforgivable lout, of Cuoco-Sweeting, whose Gretchen is annoying and controlling, and of the fake groomsmen, whom I had not mentioned until this point because they are almost entirely interchangeable and unfunny (only the build-up to a cop tapping on the window of a van near the end gets a laugh, and even it is at their expense). "The Wedding Ringer" isn't a total loss, but it is a comedy at odds with itself and, given its penchant for gay-panic humor in between pratfalls and sex jokes (and the fact that director Jeremy Garelock's script with Jay Lavender was apparently written 15 years ago), strangely archaic.

Film Information

Kevin Hart (Jimmy Callahan/"Bic Mitchum"), Josh Gad (Doug Harris), Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting (Gretchen Palmer), Jorge Garcia (Lurch/"Garvey"), Affion Crockett (Reggie/"Drysdale"), Olivia Thirlby (Alison Palmer), Ken Howard (Ed Palmer), Alan Ritchson (Kip/"Carew"), Jenifer Lewis (Doris Jenkins), Mimi Rogers (Lois Palmer), Ignacio Serricchio (Dirty Eddie Sanchez/"Edmundo"), Cloris Leachman (Grandma Palmer), Nicky Whelan (Nadia).

Directed by Jeremy Garelick and written by Garelick and Jay Lavender.

Rated R (crude/sexual content, language throughout, drug use, brief graphic nudity).

101 minutes.

Released on January 16, 2015.