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"THE WEDDING RINGER"
(2015) (Kevin Hart, Josh Gad) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: A man with no close male friends hires a "professional best man" less than two weeks before his wedding.
PLOT:
Doug (Josh Gad), a successful attorney, can't believe that such an attractive woman as Gretchen Palmer (KALEY CUOCO-SWEETING) has agreed to marry him. One problem. An only child, he spent his formative years moving around with his globe-trotting parents, and his adult years building his law practice. He really doesn't have any male friends he can call on to be his best man and groomsmen. And his bride-to-be has a maid of honor plus seven bridesmaids.

Enter Jimmy Callahan (KEVIN HART), a slick entrepreneur who runs a best-man-for-hire service. Jimmy provides full services for his clients. He'll craft an entire identity of a "best friend," throw bachelor parties, take part in rehearsal dinners, and stay with the groom right through the wedding reception. And then he is gone. This time, though, the challenge is great. He's never put together a party of seven groomsmen, a package he calls the "Golden Tuxedo." He's also never had to deal with a family such as Gretchen's, which includes an overbearing father, Ed (KEN HOWARD); a clueless mother (MIMI ROGERS); an overly inquisitive sister, Alison (OLIVIA THIRLBY); and a grandma (CLORIS LEACHMAN) who ends up the charred victim of a meet-and-greet lunch gone wrong.

With only 10 days to plan, Jimmy assembles a motley crew of groomsmen and gives them each identities based on the lies Doug has told to Gretchen. These misfits include Kip (ALAN RITCHSON), a buff male model with a stutter, who masquerades as a podiatrist; Lurch (JORGE CARCIA), who used to be on Jimmy's payroll until his wife forced him to gain other, more honorable employment; Reggie (AFFION CROCKETT), an airport security guard itching to do something more fun; Otis (COREY HOLCOMB), a gentle-giant limo driver just itching to help Jimmy out on one of his scams; Bronstein (DAN GILL), who's forced to masquerade as a lounge singer and major Tom Jones fan; Endo (AARON TAKAHASHI), an Asian man who pretends to be a childhood friend of Doug's now working as a school principal; and Plunkett (COLIN KANE), a recently sprung ex-con with a violent rap sheet.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
Everyone in the movie biz acknowledges that January is a dump month for bad Hollywood flicks. Reviewers can generally get three or four candidates for their 10 Worst list that they'll write up 11 months later. But Entertainment Weekly recently ran a short feature detailing some of the surprisingly good flicks that were slipped into theaters in the first month of the year in years' past. Add "The Wedding Ringer" to that list. This is a surprisingly funny flick, folks, with great chemistry between the two leads and a supporting cast of comedic talents that all come to play. Trust me. When "The Wedding Ringer 2" comes out in a couple of years, it'll probably be in the summer season.

Josh Gad stars as Doug, a successful L.A. attorney who is marrying his dream girl, Gretchen (Kaley Cucuo-Sweeting). One problem. He doesn't really have any close male friends. He was an only child. And his father moved him and his mother around year after year growing up due to his line of work, so he never formed any lasting relationships. He needs a best man! Actually, he needs a best man and seven groomsmen to equal the wedding party Gretchen has assembled.

Enter Kevin Hart's Jimmy Callahan, an entrepreneur who has started Best Man Inc. That's right. For a price, he'll learn all that is learnable about you and be the best, best man money can buy. For an extra fee, he will throw you a bachelor party, attend all family functions ... heck, he'll even deliver your eulogy years later to maintain the charade. When Jimmy hears that Doug needs seven groomsmen in less than two weeks, he marvels at the challenge describing the package as the "Golden Tuxedo."

The film then follows the formula that you would expect, but it's a tasty formula. And director and co-writer Jeremy Garelick lines up the big moments -- the oddball groomsmen auditions, the obligatory male bonding montage, the raunchy bachelor party, the climactic wedding -- and scores big laughs at each of them. Yes, it's very R-rated, very profane, and almost entirely chauvinistic. But it's essentially a "bro-mance." And unlike the Judd Apatow factory of comedies, it's doesn't overstay its welcome by a half-hour. You know where it's going, it knows where it's going, and it delivers.

If the film had just gotten the Gad-Hart pairing right (Gad, a Broadway star in a science nerd's body, is perhaps best known as the voice of Olaf the snowman in "Frozen"), the movie would warrant a passing grade. But what I really liked about it is the comedy talent it mines from faces most audiences won't recognize. The seven groomsmen are a motley crew, with Colin Kane standing out as a recently paroled criminal forced to masquerade as a paraplegic and Jorge Garcia of "Lost" fame registering as a henpecked husband who has to hide his employment from his wife. Garcia is in the film for one reason and one reason only. For a single line of dialogue ... and he kills it! I also liked Ignacio Serricchio of "The Young and the Restless" as a character named "Dirty Sanchez" that I'll leave to your viewing pleasure.

The film aims to be the male equivalent of "Bridesmaids." And, no, it does not live up to that pedigree. It's closer in quality and laugh quotient to "Wedding Crashers" and the 1980s raunch-classic "Bachelor Party." Then again, you might like those two flicks better than the Kristen Wiig vehicle. Or you may just hate this subgenre entirely and prefer your comedy less broad and more biting. To each their own. But if the prospect of Olaf the snowman singing "Put the weed in the coconut and light that s**t up" makes you even half-chuckle, this is gonna be your movie. It's certainly mine. I give it a 6.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed January 14, 2015 / Posted January 16, 2015


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