The Wedding Ringer
Mirthless matrimonial comedy squandering the talented Kevin Hart and Josh Gad
At one point earmarked as a vehicle for Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson (the first draft of the screenplay predates their similar hit Wedding Crashers), The Wedding Ringer is a low-brow comedy pairing Kevin Hart (Ride Along) with rising star Josh Gad, who artfully voiced Olaf the Snowman in Frozen and starred in the Broadway version of The Book of Mormon. However, in writer-director Jeremy Garelick's film, the considerable talents of both men count for little.
Gad plays Doug Harris, an affluent LA businessman whose lack of friends becomes an issue when his upwardly mobile fiancée Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) organises a lavish society wedding. Doug consults Jimmy Callahan (Hart), who makes his living stepping into the breach when there’s no best man available. Jimmy reluctantly agrees to organise a ‘Golden Tux’ package, through which Doug gets not only Jimmy’s services as best man, but a full complement of lifelong chums.
The selection and training of these recruits makes up the bulk of The Wedding Ringer, which sidelines Gretchen and her family in favour of extended scenes of male-bonding. There’s an American-football-rolling-in–the-mud montage, featuring quarterback Joe Namath and set to Joe Esposito’s Karate Kid anthem 'You’re the Best'. It’s followed by an equally abrasive stag-night montage, in which Doug inadvertently receives sexual satisfaction from a dog.
That veteran actress Cloris Leachman is set on fire at one point shows just how much sensitivity and nuance is on display here. Such crudity might feel justified if the results were more amusing, but neither Hart nor Gad look comfortable and Cuoco-Sweeting displays none of the charm she regularly brings to TV's The Big Bang Theory. It's a film swamped with the worst kind of glitzy Hollywood distraction, while the problem at the centre of the story – Doug's lack of genuine friends – is a subject that The Wedding Ringer's mirthless razzamatazz completely fails to address.
General release from Fri 20 Feb.