Review: The Wedding Ringer
Weddings are a popular subjects for films. The Wedding Ringer, written and directed by Jeremy Garelick (The Break-Up, The Rebels) joins good company among The Wedding Crashers, The Wedding Singer, The Wedding Date, Muriel’s Wedding, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Four Weddings and a Funeral, I Love You, Man – well, you get it, there are heaps of wedding movies.
The Wedding Ringer is perhaps closest plot-wise to I Love You, Man in terms of it not being a particular romantic comedy, but more of a ‘bromance’ between the two male protagonists. In fact, it was sold to Sony as “Hitch meets I Love You, Man meets The Hangover” and if this sounds like your sort of film, you won’t be disappointed.
Boy, Doug, (Josh Gad) has already got girl, Gretchen, (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) and they’re getting married. However, Doug is an awkward kinda guy who works a lot and though he’s a very successful in his job, it hasn’t translated into his social life – he has no close male friends. He’s ashamed at not having anyone in to make up his wedding party so in a moment of desperation, he makes up nine fake groomsmen with names and increasingly elaborate backstories.
Enter Jimmy, played by the funny meme-king Kevin Hart. Jimmy offers services to guys just like Doug to be their best man, and it’s a role he’s very good at. Realising there may be a solution to his massive lie, Doug seeks out his services and explains his charade. Jimmy agrees to help, but makes it clear this is just ‘business’ and he’s not Doug’s friend. The movie goes from there. Obviously, no one can ever find out that the people hired to play Doug’s groomsmen are fake.
Now, The Wedding Ringer is a funny movie. It runs for just over one hundred minutes, making it a great choice for a film on a tight schedule. The screenplay was written by the director Garelick and Jay Lavender, who also worked with Garelick on The Break-Up. Kevin Hart is loveable as Jimmy/Bick Mitchum and Josh Gad captures what the writers and director blatantly aim for that “how could a girl like that go for a guy like me?” feel. The Wedding Ringer is a funny movie, but often it oversteps or tries to overcompensate for the fact that it uses a rewritten and reused plot device with jokes that are offensive, degrading and completely inappropriate.
Jimmy and Doug are a Hitch Will Smith/Kevin James combo – he’s a black, witty, funny, charming, attractive man trying to help a guy the girl down the aisle. Doug believes he’s a loser, despite the fact he is very intelligent, has a great job and is marrying a wonderful woman. It’s obvious throughout the film that they (Hollywood, the characters, the writers/directors – pick one) really do believe that biggest losers in society at the moment are white, successful, fat, slightly Jewish men punching above their weight. Though often the antics they get up to are funny, this sort of falseness and awkwardness in what is represented in their relationship becomes hard to forget.
The humour in this film relies almost solely on either offensive jokes or slapstick humour. This is increasingly true for crude, sexual and degrading jokes made about woman within this film. There are several mentions to ‘fucking your sister and your mum’ all throughout the film in varying degrees, and exceedingly animated exclamations about how good the ‘pussy’ is. There are fat jokes – a lot of them – in a film that relies on misogyny, racism, and homophobic jokes to get by.
There is one joke in particular about a priest molesting children in which I thought, “How the hell did these rubbish jokes ever get greenlighted?” When you write a tone deaf bit about a child being molested and traumatised and expect people to laugh you really have to reassess your role as a comedic writer. Deriving humour from the most victimised in society – women, homosexuals, animals, people of colour and children – should never be the way a writer believes they can create humour in a film.
A redeeming quality is the appearance of Josh Peck as a ‘what not to do’ as a best man. Josh’s scene, though brief, is hilarious and I found myself wishing he was originally cast within the band of wacky groomsmen. The groomsmen do not live outside of their assigned characters in Doug’s charade. You barely learn their real names, or their professions, or backstory before they are recruited by Jimmy, which is fine – there would be too many characters to keep track of otherwise, except for the fact that Doug and Jimmy aren’t very complex or deep characters either.
Hart says this is his favourite film to date, and that it reflects more on his role as a stand-up comedian than a comedic actor. Hart does exhibit his great talents as a stand-up comedian and shines in a role that seems a little too stereotypical to be entirely comfortable, especially when Hitch did it in 2005.
The Wedding Ringer is a fine movie plot wise, and there are a lot of funny scenes. It’s a pity that Garelick and Lavender feel like they need to make increasingly more inappropriate jokes, instead of letting the chemistry between Hart and Gad guide the humour. You’ll like The Wedding Ringer a lot more than I did if you enjoy degrading women, laughing at priests molesting children, animal abuse, racism, and supporting homophobia, which is a shame really.