Have you ever wondered what happens to old, unfunny Vince Vaughn scripts? They become new unfunny Kevin Hart movies.
“The Wedding Ringer,” the story of a well-to-do but socially awkward guy (“Frozen’s” Josh Gad) who hires a professional best man (Hart) to fool his bride-to-be, is a decade-and-a-half old idea originally intended for “The Wedding Crasher” star.
That script was mercifully abandoned around the time of Y2K only to be resurrected, “Walking Dead” style in 2015 with a new star, but no new laughs.
Gad is Doug Harris. He’s a loner who never had any luck with women until he met Gretchen (“Big Bang Theory’s” Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), a beautiful woman who loves his bank account as much as she loves him. They plan a big wedding, but as his parents are dead and he has no siblings, his side of the wedding party is nonexistent. With just a week before the big day he hires Jimmy Callahan (Hart) to pretend to be his best man and supply seven groomsmen.
“This is strictly a business relationship,” says Jimmy, “you’re not buying a best friend, you’re buying a best man.”
Of course, this is a bromance, so Doug is actually buying a best friend. As the odd couple careens toward learning the value of real friendship they have many adventures, including lighting Gretchen’s grandmother on fire and indulging in a little bestiality at an out-of-control bachelor party.
“The Wedding Ringer” is an R-rated comedy so lowbrow it makes Adam Sandler’s oeuvre look like Noel Coward. Gad, who became a star on Broadway in “The Book of Mormon” and a hero to kids as Olaf in “Frozen,” and Hart, who’s a gifted stand-up and comic actor, are better than this. In fact, everybody is better than this.
Gad pulls faces, does funny voices and falls through the furniture while Hart does double-speak and slapstick, but “The Wedding Ringer” is a Laugh Free Zone.
I know it’s meant to be a screwball comedy but in order for it to be truly funny as it works its way to the inevitable sentimental climax, it has to have at least one foot planted in reality. A dollop of real human behavior or a tangential link to some earthbound experience would have made these characters human, and relatable, and not simply cardboard cutouts with loud voices and bad judgment.
“The Wedding Ringer” leaves the jokes at the altar.
In Dr. Cabbie, Vinay Virmani stars as Deepak, a man from New Delhi, who arrives in Toronto with a degree in medicine and dreams of following in his MD father’s footsteps. Instead he is met with bureaucracy and frustration. The medical establishment in Canada doesn’t accept his hard-earned degree and decree that he won’t be able to practice medicine in his new country.
Virmani was inspired to write the story after taking a cab ride in Toronto.
“When you get into a cab, you form that Indian-to-Indian thing,” he says. “The driver is like, ‘Where are you from?’
‘No, where are you really from?’
“It always starts off like that. Then he told me his story. I was really moved by it because here’s a guy who was young and naïve when he came here, very passionate about being a doctor, and had that dream shattered.
“Then I heard about a Chinese dentist in Vancouver who was doing dental work for families who couldn’t afford dental. They called him the Bedroom Dentist. So all these things played in my head.”
In the film, a friend (Big Bang Theory’s Kunal Nayyar) gets Deepak a job driving a cab, and one eventful night he meets Natalie, the girl of his dreams (Adrianne Palicki), and delivers her baby in the back of the hack.
When a video of the birth goes viral he becomes a something of a sensation. Soon people are flagging his taxi, looking for medical treatment.
With a thriving practice on wheels, he doles out medical advice and prescription drugs to customers from the back of his cab.
“If somebody told me a cabbie delivered a baby in a cab I would want to see that,” he says.
“I would want to see how he did it. It’s not far fetched to believe a video like that would go viral.”
The movie is a broad comedy, but one with serious underpinnings.
“Right now we do have a doctor shortage in this country, we do have qualified PhDs not only driving cabs, but doing all sorts of work,” he says, “and I really hope the movie sheds light on that, but in a fun, comedic way.
“I hope we’ve given integrity to the issue.
“Through the fun and games and the loud characters and situations, we say a doctor is a doctor is a doctor — that the Hippocratic Oath does not change just because you cross a border.”