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Wedding Ringer, The

D: Jeremy Garelick / 101m

Cast: Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, Affion Crockett, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Jorge Garcia, Dan Gill, Corey Holcomb, Colin Kane, Aaron Takahashi, Alan Ritchson, Ken Howard, Olivia Thirlby, Mimi Rogers, Cloris Leachman, Ignacio Serricchio, Jenifer Lewis

Though Doug Harris (Gad) is a successful tax attorney, when it comes to his impending marriage to Gretchen Palmer (Cuoco-Sweeting), he’s having no success in conjuring up a best man or any other friends to be his groomsmen. With literally no one to call on, Doug hears about The Best Man Inc and checks it out. He meets best man for hire Jimmy Callaghan (Hart) and explains his predicament. Jimmy realises he needs a “Golden Tux” (seven groomsmen), which has never been done before. He takes on the challenge and finds seven “friends” for Doug who will be able to attend various pre-wedding functions and be there on the day.

Jimmy assumes the role of Bic Mitchum, a military priest fresh from a tour in El Salvador. He and Doug spend time getting to “know” each other before Jimmy meets Gretchen’s family, including her ultra-competitive dad (Howard) and immediately suspicious sister, Allison (Thirlby). Doug and Jimmy do well enough that Gretchen doesn’t suspect a thing, though as the wedding day gets nearer and nearer, a bond develops between Jimmy and Doug that Jimmy is wary of, as his one stipulation is that their relationship is purely a business one. But on the day of the wedding, Jimmy learns something that changes everything, including his role of best man, and Doug’s role as the groom. Does he keep to the terms of his agreement with Doug, or does he put it all aside to help Doug?

Kevin Hart;Josh Gad;Affion Crockett;Jorge Garcia

The latest movie in Kevin Hart’s seemingly unstoppable rise to superstardom, The Wedding Ringer is a comedy feature that pauses on too many occasions to ram home its message about the importance of friendship, and largely forgets to include the belly laughs it so desperately needs to work. It’s workmanlike stuff, the script by director Garelick and Jay Lavender never really coming up with situations or diversions that prove really funny. It is amusing – what happens to Gretchen’s gran (Leachman) at the lunch is surreally hilarious – but only in fits and starts. Like many comedies released in recent years, there’s too much exposition and too much emphasis on the set up rather than the pay off. What doesn’t help is that Hart appears to coasting on auto pilot, while Gad (easily the better comic actor) is stuck playing the straight guy.

The whole premise is weak, and Doug’s explanation for his situation seems improbable, while Jimmy’s lack of friends seems equally unlikely. There are lots of other contrivances on display, and they all stop the movie from being anything more than a loosely connected series of scenes that are there to tick the boxes. Garelick makes his feature debut but fails to impress, and the whole look of the movie is one step removed from a TV episode. Ultimately, it’s a movie that doesn’t try very hard, and gives new meaning to the word “underwhelming”.

Rating: 4/10 – with Hart citing The Wedding Ringer as his “best work to date”, some viewers may think it has a lot going for it, but the truth is more banal: it’s just not as funny as it should be; predictable and too pedestrian to be effective, the movie is a disappointment, and wastes its more than capable cast.