The Wedding Ringer (Screen Gems, R)

weddingringer 75Garelick flirts with gross out humor in the vein of The Hangover, but never fully commits so the blend of comedic styles feels uneven. 

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Timing is the key to comedy, but chemistry between performers is nearly as important. In The Wedding Ringer, Josh Gad and Kevin Hart play two guys who, on the surface, are polar opposites. The film is very funny because the two leads are extremely talented comic actors in their own right. However, it’s the relationship that develops between the two men that makes it work and sustains the audience’s enthusiasm through an abundance of slapstick hijinks and unnecessary crass humor.

Doug Harris (Gad) is a successful attorney who is marrying the woman of his dreams. The only problem is that while Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), his bride, has her wedding party locked and ready to go, Doug is having a hard time finding a best man or any groomsmen. Instead of telling Gretchen that he has no close guy friends—an embarrassing admission—he makes up the names of his best man and groomsmen while he attempts to figure out a solution.

His savior comes in the form of Jimmy Callahan (Hart), owner and operator of Best Man, Inc. Jimmy is a professional best man for guys like Doug who don’t have any friends to be there for them on their special day. Jimmy agrees to help Doug despite the fact that doing so will mean pulling off a “Golden Tux”: providing a best man, seven groomsmen, and a trove of made-up memories in just 10 days. Jimmy, now Doug’s oldest friend Bic Mitchum, scrambles to assemble the low-rent Avengers to save Doug from the humiliation of admitting the truth.

Having been a background player for many years, Gad is finally getting the attention he deserves. While he is playing the straight man to Hart’s more outrageous performance, Gad manages to play Doug as sad and lonely without being pitiful. The audience doesn’t feel sorry for Doug; they empathize with him. Gad is funny, but his performance is most impressive because of the naturalism with which he displays Doug’s feelings of loneliness.

Hart, on the other hand, gives a manic and hilarious performance, yards ahead of everyone else as soon as he is off the starting line. Hart is doing his best to not be Vince Vaughn, but the character (which was intended for Vaughn, actually) is custom made to suit the latter actor’s fast-talking, improv-heavy approach. That being said, Hart shines in the part because he’s so damn likable even when he’s passing judgment on the “losers” he’s helping. Hart has an infectious energy and charm and raises the game of every actor who shares a scene with him.

First-time director Jeremy Garelick co-wrote the movie with Jay Lavender. The two worked together on the major misfire The Break-Up, so it’s not surprising Vaughn’s brand of comedy permeates the script. Garelick handles the pacing very well, but spends a bit too much time on several comic set pieces (think of them as a humorous version of a car chase) including a grudge match game of football in a mud pit and Doug’s bachelor party. Garelick flirts with gross out humor in the vein of The Hangover, but never fully commits so the blend of comedic styles feels uneven. But, for a first feature film, Garelick’s work is sufficient for what is required.

The Wedding Ringer is much funnier than most comedies that have come out recently and even manages a few character reversals that add an additional level of satisfaction. Gad and Hart balance and support each other well in the effortless manner of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. And that’s no small compliment. | Matthew Newlin

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