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Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Wedding Ringer Review: Tasteless, Shallow Affair

While The Wedding Ringer is a dreadful exercise, most audiences will strangely love it.

Review by Matt Cummings

As someone who loves him some raunchy comedy, it's hard to write this and tell you to stay away from The Wedding Ringer. And while it checks off all the things needed for the perfect Winter release, the Kevin Hart/Josh Gad comedy is shallow, ugly, and surprisingly spiteful.

The lovable loser Doug (Josh Gad) is soon to be married to the hottie Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), yet he holds a dark secret: his career and life have afforded him few opportunities to make friends, and his efforts to secure a best man or even groomsmen have utterly failed. Insert rent-a-groom Jimmy (Hart), who will - for a fee - make himself into the ultimate friend. But Doug's situation is special, forcing Jimmy to seek The Golden Tux which includes a full compliment of strange groomsmen with no social skills whatsoever. As the wedding day arrives, Doug must wrestle with not only with his burgeoning friendship with Jimmy but an impending disaster that only he and his new best friend can solve.

The Wedding Ringer is a hard one to nail down: you find yourself at once laughing at all the inappropriate gags, but feeling as if those come at the expense of the story and its thoroughly unlikable characters. It also doesn't help that Director/Writer Jeremy Garelick and Editor Jeff Groth with two others (huh?) make it almost impossible to hear anything after each zinger. We have to extrapolate - or become good at reading lips - before we can begin to fathom what some of these people are saying. But once you do make this leap, you'll find that everyone here is as detestable or pathetic as the other. Think of why a similar film like Ted works: those characters are far better drawn, even though their situations are just as raunchy as Ringer's. Here, there's never a connection made between Doug, Jimmy, or Gretchen, to the point that start wishing someone would come in and clean house.

Hart is a comic master, rifling off slang like a prolific painter - almost everything that comes out of his mouth is funny, and his small-guy gesticulations are in sharp contrast to the rotund Gad, whose understated performance as loveable loser does make us want to hug the lame out of him. But Garelick the Co-Writer (along with Jay Lavender), doesn't fill him or any of the other characters with anything more angst, loser-isms, bitch, or jerk. A muddy football game that turns into an elderly/youth brawl? Empty and predictable. A bachelor party that leaves one person with a dog's teeth locked on his privates? How Hangover of you. Cuoco-Sweeting (got to get a better name) is serviceable as Gretchen, but her character really degrades as the film evolves, making us feel like we've wasted our time getting to know her. Even the last-minute attempt to humanize Jimmy as someone himself who needs friends comes too late and is so thinly drawn you'll have trouble supporting it.

But at its heart, Ringer is just an ugly film that fails to establish anything above its low-brow comedy. Even the plot twist at the end just seems like it should have happened an hour before, with everyone basically wasting their money and time on a wedding that should never have happened. In the real world, such a reveal - and we won't mention it here - probably would have been addressed earlier in the relationship, with Gretchen's family seeing through such a smoke-and-mirror facade. Whereas the WTF of The Hangover feels at least plausible - and who hasn't been to a party that didn't get totally out of control - Ringer just seems like schlock and shock for the sake of it, wrapped in poor character development.

It's difficult to write this, because our test audience absolutely loved it. But hidden not-so-deeply within it is a lack of an end credits (never seen that before) and a beginning that feels like half of it was cut off. This won't matter to the general public, and neither will the editing or evil undercurrent. But it should.

The Wedding Ringer has its moments, but dig deeper into its spiteful nature and you might feel differently afterwards. Does it check off all the boxes for roll-around-on-the-floor comedy? Yes. Does that mean I can recommend it? No.

The Wedding Ringer is Rated R for crude and sexual content, language throughout, some drug use and brief graphic nudity and has a runtime of 101 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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