A film review by Craig J. Koban June 5, 2015


2015, R, 111 mins.


Kevin Hart as Jimmy Callahan / Bic  /  Josh Gad as Doug Harris  /  Kaley Cuoco as Gretchen Palmer  /  Affion Crockett as Reggie / DrysDale  /  Jorge Garcia as Lurch / Garvey  /  Cloris Leachman  /  Olivia Thirlby as Alison Palmer

Directed by Jeremy Garelick  /  Written by Garelick and Jay Lavender

When it comes to reviewing certain movies I tend to ask myself one question: 

On what normal plane of existence would the film’s premise exist? 

I thought about this very query while watching the new nuptials/buddy comedy THE WEDDING RINGER.  It’s about a man that’s about to get married to the love of his life, but is so utterly bereft of friends that he finds it next to impossible to find a best man.  As a result, he seeks out an underground business that provides for him a new BFF and, most importantly, a best man to be there for him for the obligatory bachelor party, wedding ceremony, reception toasts, photo ops, and so forth.   

Now, do I believe that it’s possible for some poor friendless and ashamed sap out there to have no friends to speak of and, as a result, no best man for his wedding?  Sure.  However, do I believe that a business exists that would cater to this man’s every need as a makeshift groomsman…for a price?  

Not.  One.  Bit. 

The unfortunate SOB in question in THE WEDDING RINGER is the fairly well off and career minded Doug Harris (Josh Gad, still searching for a good film to harness his talents) that’s poised to be married to his blonde bombshell of a wife Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting).  Doug is an awfully sweet man with a proverbial heart of gold, but the pudgy and socially awkward businessman works so hard that he essentially put his social life on the backburner.  Now, he’s between a rock and a hard place trying to find a last minute best man for his wedding (he’s also too timid and humiliated to tell his wife).  Now, how a person that essentially possesses zero social skills and is friendless managed to become engaged to an unattainably gorgeous and out-of-his-league woman like Gretchen is one of the many mysterious that the film never once plausibly explains.  



Have no fear for Doug, though, because it comes to his attention that there’s a man with a unique skill set that is able to help people like him under such unique and troubling pre-wedding issues.  Doug seeks out TBM, Inc. ("The Best Man"), a clandestine business run by Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart, doing what he can with the material given), which offers services that are conveniently what Doug so desperately needs.  For a fairly hefty fee, Jimmy will temporarily pretend to be Doug’s old friend from out of town and be his best man (again, how a friend like this would never once be brought up in a conversation between Doug and his fiancé during their courtship is also never explained), but the two realize that they are going to have to come up with an elaborate faux friendship history and backstory to help sell the authenticity of their fake bromance.  

Jimmy sees this as the ultimate “Golden Tux” challenge (complete 100 per cent fabrication of everything that figures in on Doug’s deceptive plan), but he only has a few days to prepare.  This leaves Jimmy pulling out all of the stops, even hiring a motley crew of weird and disorderly men to serve as Doug’s groomsmen (one includes a stripper with a speech impediment and another is a…Roto-Rooter man).  In the process of trying to pull off the con of all wedding cons, Jimmy begins to – wouldn’t ya know it! – have legitimate feelings of friendship and camaraderie with Doug.  Of course, he has a strictly by-the-book and professional code of conduct, but the more time Jimmy spends with Doug the more the two begin to bond in unexpected ways…even when their insanely elaborate ruse begins to crack under pressure. 

Josh Gad and Kevin Hart are indeed likeable screen performers.  I’ve always seen Gad as the poor man’s Jonah Hill, but he has an easygoing and affable personality and charm that makes him awfully hard to hate.  Hart is a nice foil to Gad’s tepidness, and here he provides his requisite brand of rapid-fire line delivery and boisterous high energy that certainly helps elevate lackluster films like THE WEDDING RINGER achieve modest levels of merriment.  Gad and Hart are well paired here and have a nice, unforced chemistry, which consequently assists the film’s mostly cockamamie and incredulous premise.  Lesser performers would have made THE WEDDING RINGER all but unwatchable, but Gad and Hart, I think, know the kind of film they respectively populate and give it their all, even when confined by ridiculously contrived material. 

Yet, again, THE WEDDING RINGER just feels like pure science fiction to me.  Even after I labored to believe that Jimmy’s business seemed like a credible entity (how does he manage to pull off all of these hoaxes with seemingly no other staff?), I struggled even more with the film’s lazy and cobbled together comedic feel.  THE WEDDING RINGER tries to be a crude and vulgar R-rated comedy, a rating that it mostly earns (cue rubber prosthetic penis gag), but then the film makes sheepish attempts at methodically pulling heartstrings at the expense of Doug’s predicament and his budding friendship with Jimmy.  This creates an odd push-pull effect in the film, and it's a tonal dichotomy that THE WEDDING RINGER never once earns nor deserves.  The script is also fundamentally mean spirited and misogynistic when it comes to its archaically written female characters.  Gretchen is a selfish and narrow-minded being that only thinks of herself, whereas characters like her grandmother (played inexplicably by Cloris Leachman) only seem to exist to be accidentally set on fire during a rather horrible family dinner.  Then there’s the WTF appearance by the wonderful Olivia Thirlby here, playing Gretchen's sister who seems a million miles removed from the type of better roles and films she’s been a part of in the past. 

Worst yet is that THE WEDDING RINGER just feels…embarrassingly derivative.  HITCH with Will Smith and Kevin James from a decade ago covered similar thematic terrain with incalculably better results.  Then there was the more recent 2009 comedy I LOVE YOU, MAN that also focused on an engaged man that was seeking platonic male friendship via unlikely means.  Those films felt like National Geographic documentaries about the social customs of human males compared to what’s on display in THE WEDDING RINGER, which mostly emerges as a sloppy and slapdash affair that never rises above its half-baked and logic-straining premise.  For as much performance good will as Hart and Gad bring to the proceedings (they really had no other choice under the circumstances), THE WEDDING RINGER utterly fails at mixing raunch and feel good, heartfelt sentiment.  Was there no underground screenwriting business that Hollywood could have hired to have re-worked and finessed this lousy film? 

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