‘The Wedding Ringer’
Director: Jeremy Garelick
Stars: Kevin Hart, Josh Gad
2 (out of 5) Globes
In “The Wedding Ringer,” Kevin Hart plays a motormouthed huckster who, for an exorbitant fee, plays best man for grooms-to-be without one. What he does is not unlike what the comic actor has done in his movie career thus far. Hart is a fixer, parachuting into projects beneath his talents and pounding them — with ad-libbing, shouting and copious jokes about his own non-height — into some generally palatable shape. At one point “The Wedding Ringer” was to be an Owen Wilson-Vince Vaughn buddy comedy. (It was even made by the team who wrote “The Break-Up.”) Whatever happened to it, it’s now the Kevin Hart Show, with Josh Gad as his not so equal screen partner. At one part the star turns to his co-star and tells him, “You follow my lead and say as little as you can.”
Gad does slightly more than that, but it’s still all about its high-wattage headliner — this despite a script that has more going on than, say, “Ride Along,” which hung ad-libs over a nothing plot. There are actual jokes that were actually in the screenplay, plus hairpin plot turns. Gad plays a wealthy businessman (or something — it’s not clear what he does, but he gets real paid) who’s 10 days from marrying a Bridezilla well out of his league (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting). Despite being about to tie the knot, he has no friends — not only no best man, not no groomsmen either. This is a daunting task even for Hart’s Jimmy, who not only has to speed-learn all about his alleged best friend, but has to round up seven reprobates to fill out the wedding party.
There are a lot of supporting roles, and it’s telling that none of them are familiar faces. There’s no one to upstage Hart, or even come close. Cloris Leachman swings by but is quickly set on fire. Meanwhile a good drinking game would come with spotting the many cutaways to Olivia Thirlby, whose presence is powerfully inexplicable until the climax — and then not major enough to warrant the presence of a serious thespian in a broad comedy.
Still, Hart may supply most of the jokes — and with an R-rating, for a change — but he can’t fix everything. And “The Wedding Ringer” is seriously all over the place, trying to be everything, even if things that contradict over things. It’s a dumb comedy that’s also cynical about marriage and weddings. It has gay panic jokes and gay power jokes, sometimes in the same scene. It can be suddenly brutally honest about loneliness and then segue into a set piece involving a dog, peanut butter and a fake schlong. It’s an indifferently filmed comedy that includes a pretty funny and clever parody of “The Usual Suspects.” Worst, it’s a pumped-up Kevin Hart movie that also features sincere heart-to-heart (or Hart) scenes. The comic isn’t yet ready to look sad while sad music plays. His shtick is still rapid-fire improv. Then again, there is only one short joke.