Overview: Unable to acquire a best man and seven groomsmen for his wedding, a desperate groom seeks the service of a best man-for-hire. Screen Gems; 2015; Rated R; 101 minutes.
The Good: After unsuccessfully contacting distant friends and acquaintances and to be part of his wedding party, Doug Harris (Josh Gad) feels the pressure. Wanting to please a fiance, Gretchen Palmer (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) who is above him on multiple levels, Harris heeds the advice of his wedding planner to hire a best man, Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart). Taking on the persona of Harris’s best friend Bic Mitchum, Callahan enlists his group of friends take on one the biggest challenges Callahan has ever encountered. If you have seen the trailer (and who hasn’t at this point?), you know with some degree of certainty that one thing is going to happen, especially after Callahan says this to Harris: “It’s strictly a business relationship. You’re not buying a new friend. You’re hiring a best man.” Surprise (limp spoiler)! They end up becoming friends. Despite this, it does not make the movie stale or predictable. There are, surprisingly, plenty of other points to look forward to. The dynamic between Callahan and Harris, both in comparative and relative measure, is really funny- a suave fox next to an awkward duck. That being said, Hart’s role as Callahan carries the most weight for this movie. His presence is on point, his lines are more than easy punches for quick laughs, and his lightning energy remains constant from beginning to end. Audience members who have expectations outside the involvement of Hart mightbe disappointed. Director and Writer Jeremy Garelick offers light variation in the usual lineup of supporting characters for films like these, including a loathsome future father-in-law worthy to be hated (I have never wanted to see an old man get beat up as I did during the football game), a wedding planner who is only flaming to maximize business opportunities, and, of course, the nice guy who doesn’t come in last.
The Bad: This movie is Cuoco-Sweeting’s first major role in a movie; I’m okay if it’s her last and she can just stay sheltered up with a bunch of geek on Television. As Gretchen Palmer, the role is not a stretch for Cuoco-Sweeting, who thus appears slightly bored and disconnected. I expected more from her; at least now I have realistic expectations. Ultimately, The Wedding Ringer can’t overcome what we’re all thinking: this is just not an original movie. A full decade after Will Smith’s Hitch, not enough work an innovation are applied to push the film beyond the shadow of the structural predecessor.
Final Thoughts: Hart is the strength behind The Wedding Ringer, inside and out, not only as the comedic beacon, but as the film’s most heartfelt presence, a grounded individual and the best friend any guy could ask for.