The Wedding Ringer (2015) Review:
Romantic comedies are probably one of the most laughed at genres of film out there. The high brow critics will tell you time and time again of their many tropes. Their characters are shallow, their stories are unbelievable and more than anything else, everyone in the theatre is left thinking no one on earth would act like that. I’ve wanted to scream at a character in a rom-com more so than any in a horror movie. How many times do characters have to overhear conversations out of context, and then for the sake of the plot, refuse to hear any explanation that would provide said context, before audiences say enough is enough?
But the thing is, audiences don’t think it’s enough. Romantic comedies have been around forever, and the genre is not an inherently bad one. from ‘Some Like it Hot’ to ‘Love Actually’, you can always find a good number of gems of the ilk. But even the worst ones get a lot of play, and the clichés that are trotted out time and time again are no more offensive than the ones in your cheesy action flick. In fact, comparably it’s even less offensive because as frustrating as the characters might be, their predicaments are at least plausible. It’s the plausibility of these stories that makes them so frustrating to watch because it seems like such an easy thing to pull off.
All you have to do is craft a good love story between two people, but instead, many opt to go the fairy tale route with caricatures instead of characters and lose their grip on the movie. Still, just as one turns their brain off to watch Optimus Prime pummel a Ninja Turtle, so too does the rom-com viewer with the latest storybook love story. Yeah, you probably roll their eyes when romantic comedies come out, but there’s always going to be a group out there who adores it. To them, Katherine Heigl and Jennifer Lopez are their heroes, not Jason Statham and Gerard Butler.
‘The Wedding Ringer’ is the latest rom-com to grace the silver screen and it comes with a premise as preposterous as ever. Josh Gad plays Doug. A young, successful, soon to be groom who is about to marry his much hotter fiancée Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting. They’re young, in love and nothing could be better, except there’s just one problem. Doug is a bit of a loner with neither a best man or a groomsman in sight. Enter, the Wedding Ringer, Jimmy Callahan, played by Kevin Hart. Jimmy provides a service where he pretends to be the best man to the friendless fiancée. He does this by learning everything he can about his client, fabricating old adventures between the two and providing enough charisma for people to overlook the glaring impossibility of the premise.
So Doug goes to hire Jimmy to be his best man after his wedding planner notices his side of the Church is noticeably empty. Doug explains that not only does he not have a best man but he has zero grooms-men, which is an undertaking Jimmy has never done before called the “Golden Tux”. Jimmy must now put together 7 fake grooms-men to fool Doug’s wife and voila, we now have an ensemble comedy. From here we watch a montage or two of Jimmy getting his guys together, his guys learning their characters, and finally trying to fool the family. These are humorous mainly because the original cast is composed of what seems to be, a Harlem globetrotter, Hurley from Lost, two potential sex offenders, Joe Dirt in a wheelchair, Fat Albert’s disappointed father and a grown-up Charlie Brown if Charlie Brown was an actual child star and ruined his life with drugs and alcohol.
I’ve always held that if a film has a ridiculous notion, it doesn’t matter how ridiculous it is, as long as it is sold well to the audience. ‘The Wedding Ringer’ does this by showing Jimmy’s numerous clients in the past as well as showing us him on the job itself. However, for some, it may be too much to swallow that the friends and associates of his many clients all suddenly believe that this man whom they have never met is actually the secret lifelong friend of the groom. As absurd as it might be the movie is actually quite entertaining if you go along with its absurdity.
There’s a thing in comedy, which is called the “hat on hat” premise, which basically describes having one funny idea and then compounding it with another funny idea until it becomes indigestible and it no longer resonates with the audience. With that in mind, ‘The Wedding Ringer’ could be accused of buying out the hat shop as a good chunk of their jokes are predicated on constant build-up that doesn’t always amount to any payoff. The premise itself is an example of this as we basically watch as this original lie gets bigger and bigger and essentially we’re just waiting for it to fail. This is not a new type of comedy as it’s been done time and time again on at least 8 episodes of your favourite sitcom.
Where the movie trots out the old it also actually has some interesting ways in which it surprises you. There are moments where the movie is making a commentary on the genre itself. Jimmy’s business basically represents the romantic comedy industry. He lies in order to make the wedding go perfectly, even though it’s all fake. Jimmy fulfills the desire for people to see love as they want it to be, just as romcoms give us false notions of love and human relationships. Aside from that, some of the aforementioned genre tropes are actually turned on their heads in this film. Films like ‘Friends With Benefits’ attempt to present us with a “different kind of comedy” but ultimately become what they were trying to mock. ‘The Wedding Ringer’ surprisingly kept it’s integrity and stuck the landing in what it was trying to achieve.
To praise the movie more, aside from those awkward jokes that don’t go anywhere, the movie is actually pretty funny. I laughed more often than I didn’t and that’s mostly because the cast works so well together. With the exception of Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting’s character, the chemistry between the actors is stark which is why it’s absurd premise and grandiose set pieces are so easy to swallow. Gad and Hart are definitely at the heart of the film and carry it for the most part. Their performances are so good at investing you in their characters, that even in scenes that don’t involve them, you’re picturing their reactions and laughing at their response.
‘The Wedding Ringer’ is by no means the next raunchy comedy success story. It’s January release almost makes sure of that. What it is, is a movie with more heart than it needed and enough entertainment value to give it the sway over whatever else is on tv at the time. It’s not something you desperately rush out to the theatre to see but it’s definitely not a waste of your time. I’m glad I got to see it, as a few of the scenes are still stuck in my head a week later. As a filmgoer, I never like going into a film with negative expectations. As hard as it may be to do, I try to go in with a completely blank slate so that I’m not let down or so that my preconceived notions of the movie don’t tarnish the art. Admittedly, I didn’t go in expecting much from ‘The Wedding Ringer’ which is probably why I liked it so much. It surprised me and made me laugh when I expected to be checking my watch the whole time. So with that in mind, it may have been just a decent film but as it stands now, I had a good time.
Rating: Half Price