The giggles come with groans in latest Kevin Hart comedy
The Wedding Ringer
Starring Kevin Hart, Josh Gad & Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting
Directed by Jeremy Garelick
Kevin Hart is a funny guy, with chops honed from years in comedy clubs, manic energy and a rat-a-tat-tat sense of timing and delivery that turns even so-so punch lines into zingers. It’s just too bad he still hasn’t found a movie worthy of his skills and talent.
The Wedding Ringer, a raunchy bro-mantic comedy that had been bumping around several movie companies for over a decade before finally getting made and released, stars Josh Gad (the voice of Olaf the snowman from Frozen) as Doug, a workaholic tax attorney with wedding bells in his future and the depressing prospect of no best man and no groomsmen. Poor Doug is a likeable schlub, but he just doesn’t have any friends.
Who’s he gonna call? Well, lucky for him, there’s Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart), a professional best-man-for-hire who gives sad-sack grooms all the down-the-aisle fakery, including groomsmen, money can buy.
That’s the setup for a series of comedic pre-wedding misadventures, some of which seem awfully familiar (because we’ve seen them before), along with some other, more unique detours. Jock humor? Check. Gay jokes. Oh, yes. Bachelor party with a stripper? Of course. A gag involving peanut butter, a basset hound and someone’s private parts? Uh-huh. Depending on your disposition, you’ll either be chuckling or groaning, and likely some of both.
Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, best known as Penny on TV’s The Big Bang Theory, plays Doug’s finance, Gretchen, whose sweetness soon turns sour, in a one-dimensional part that exists only to be steamrolled flat by the Hart-Gad comedy express. Here’s hoping she gets another crack at another, fuller, better role in another, better movie, soon.
But Cuoco-Sweeting gets first-class treatment compared to what happens to Cloris Leachman. The Oscar-winning actress, who appears as Gretchen’s elderly grandmother, literally goes up in flames during a family dinner. Here’s hoping she gets another part in a film that doesn’t roast her like a Thanksgiving turkey, and then keep joking about it for the rest of the movie.
The very idea of the movie is preposterous, but you can’t really bash it for that. Its most loathsome offense is its premise that neither men nor women are trustworthy, that both sexes are schemers and losers—a toxic taint of mistrust and misogyny that makes every joke, even the funny ones, land with a jaded thud.
If you’re in a generous mood, you might gravitate to the movie’s subtext of male friendships, or note the (relative) subtlety and sly grace of Olivia Thirlby, as Grechen’s younger sister, who almost susses out Doug and Jimmy’s ruse. And you might smile, and rightfully so, at the song-and-dance sequence into which Doug and Jimmy break when they crash someone else’s wedding party, with the camera circling around and over them, a joyous surprise outburst of moves, grooves and high spirits that seems to come…well, from some other movie entirely.
A better movie.
Here’s hoping that, for Hart and everyone else, their next projects, whatever they are, have better rings to them than this ding-dong dud.
—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine