By LYNN BARKER
Front Row Features Film Critic
The raunchy humor of motormouth comedian Kevin Hart reigns in “The Wedding Ringer,” an uneven romp that mixes physical comedy and risqué, low-brow dialogue with a small measure of heart.
Kevin Hart plays Jimmy Callahan who works as a rent-a-best-man. He rescues grooms who simply don’t have any real buddy relationships. Does anybody really work on having a posse of buds that stick for years anymore? Jimmy is amazing at pretending to be BFFs with his clients complete with giving impressive, amazingly personal best man toasts at receptions. Jimmy, who really has no personal friends, keeps his distance from his clients. He gets paid and moves on…alone.
Longtime loser Doug, played by Josh Gad (voice of snowman Olaf in “Frozen” and Steve Wozniak in the film “Jobs”) moved around so much as a kid that he attended 13 schools and never made friends. He still can’t believe that hot Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting of “The Big Bang Theory”) is going to marry him. He’s lied to her about having a best man whom he has quickly named Bic Mitchum but he also has no groomsmen … and he needs seven.
Doug is a rich accountant who can afford “The Golden Tux,” Jimmy’s most complete groom-assist plan. Jimmy recruits a bizarre crew of groomsmen including a hot guy who stammers, a rapist ex-con, a feisty TSA agent (Affion Crockett) and a wanna-be plumber (Jorge Garcia, “Hurley” from TV’s “Lost” series). The guys have to learn complete fake identities and the group takes a bunch of fake bonding photos with Doug. Each guy perfects blurting out “random words” and doing wedding “tricks” to distract any guest who might think something is fishy with the group of best buds.
Adventures, including a cool dance off and a gross bachelor party that lands Doug in the hospital, increase as we near the wedding day. Will all go smoothly? Will Gretchen go through with it? Will Doug?
As gross and silly as the film is, “The Wedding Ringer” does have a soft center that espouses friendship over fakery. Gad and Hart are believable in the few personal scenes that explore alienation and a need for human beings to buddy up to be happy. It’s this bromance that elevates the film above the “Hangover” films, for example. Gad’s physical comedy capabilities are impressive and garner chuckles.
Gad also shines as the hapless, friendless groom and we briefly see a serious side to Hart that he rarely reveals in his work. He actually shows a bit of “heart” (insert rimshot). Cuoco-Sweeting is less clueless and more heartless than her popular Penny on “Big Bang Theory,” and it works. A silly, gross out bachelor party series of scenes involving a dog, peanut butter and genitalia don’t.
Overall, check taste at the door and you might enjoy “The Wedding Ringer.”