“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.