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The Wedding Ringer' better than advertised

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Kevin Hart comedy offers surprising number of laughs

As someone who goes to the movies a lot, I see a lot of trailers. With each passing year, I've become more and more comfortable with and more and more adept at determining the potential pros and cons of a film through just those few minutes. It's not necessarily about quality I've been known to like bad movies and not care for good ones but about personal taste.

Every once in a while, though, I'm wrong. I'll see a trailer and scoff, asking myself who could possibly enjoy such a film and instantly dreading the indeterminate future date when I will have to watch said film. And then I see it and actually kind of enjoy it. So it was with 'The Wedding Ringer.'

Honestly, I'm as surprised as you are.

Doug Harris (Josh Gad, 'Wish I Was Here') is a young lawyer preparing to marry Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, TV's 'The Big Bang Theory'), the woman of his dream. Unfortunately, the socially awkward Doug hasn't got much in the way of friends; in a moment of panic, he made up a friend named Bic Mitchum who would supposedly be his best man.

With the wedding fast approaching, Doug is at the end of his rope, but hope returns when he is referred to a company called Best Man, Inc. The CEO of BMI is Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart, 'Top Five'); for a fee, he'll fulfill any and all best man duties. But Doug needs more than just a best man he needs an entire wedding party. For a price tag of $50,000, Jimmy agrees to become Bic Mitchum and assemble a first-rate group of groomsmen.

It won't be easy Gretchen's dad (Ken Howard, 'The Judge') thinks Doug isn't good enough for his daughter and Gretchen's sister Alison (Olivia Thirlby, 'Just Before I Go') is suspicious of Bic's story. And it turns out that the crew Jimmy rounds up on short notice isn't necessarily the A-Team; as Doug puts it (in one of the film's best lines), 'They look like the cast of The Goonies' grew up and became rapists.'

Still, the con is on. However, the strictly business dynamic between Doug and Jimmy begins to give way to a budding bromance as Doug realizes that while this marriage might not cure his loneliness, finding friendship just might. Jimmy lonely in his own way finds himself breaking rule after rule as he discovers that Doug could become more than just a client.

'The Wedding Ringer' is essentially 'Wedding Crashers' meets 'Hitch' though in an interesting twist, the original screenplay was actually sold before either of those other films came out. Originally a vehicle intended for Vince Vaughn, the script actually underwent quite a lengthy journey before finally arriving 15 years after the initial sale.

But unlike many scripts that take over a decade to come to fruition, this one has some moments of actual honest-to-God humor. Maybe not as many as it could have, but some.

Hart can be a bit polarizing; people tend to love him or hate him. As a rule, I tend to lean toward the hate side of things the guy just doesn't do it for me. In this role, however, his frantic energy came off more endearing than annoying. Some of that was due to the occasional moments of vulnerability he was allowed; he wasn't just 'on' all the time.

However, the real force in this film is Gad. While it is undoubtedly a Hart vehicle, Gad's wonderful comedic sensibilities shine through again and again. His hopelessness could have been sad; instead, Gad's Doug is a perfectly likeable guy who just never managed to make friends. He's smart and quick and gifted with physical comedy chops that match his wit. He's the highlight of any scene he's in.

The dynamic between Hart, Gad and the ensemble of groomsmen Jorge Garcia; Affion Crockett; Dan Gill; Corey Holcomb; Colin Kane; Alan Ritchson; and Aaron Takahashi is the film's driving comedic force and source of most of the big laughs. It's a loose, freewheeling group that by all appearances seemed to have had a whole lot of fun.

None of this is to say that 'The Wedding Ringer' is a good movie. In fact, it might well be a bad movie. It is full of clichs and shortcuts and lazy jokes. However, if one squints, one can almost see the exceptional comedy buried beneath the layers of rote 'comic' banality. What glimpses we do get are largely due to the excellent work of Gad, who elevates almost everyone he encounters onscreen.

You won't want to marry 'The Wedding Ringer,' but there are worse dates out there.

[2.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Tuesday, 20 January 2015 22:02

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