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Dustin Putman

The Wedding Ringer  (2015)
Zero Stars
Directed by Jeremy Garelick.
Cast: Josh Gad, Kevin Hart, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Olivia Thirlby, Jorge Garcia, Affion Crockett, Alan Ritchson, Ken Howard, Jenifer Lewis, Mimi Rogers, Ignacio Serricchio, Cloris Leachman, Nicky Whelan, Aaron Takahashi, Colin Kane, Whitney Cummings, Ashley Jones, Josh Peck, Jeffrey Ross.
2015 – 101 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for crude and sexual content, language throughout, some drug use and brief graphic nudity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman for, January 14, 2015.
The mind reels over not only how "The Wedding Ringer" got made, but how anyone even remotely connected to its making could have thought the project was anything other than deplorable. Ugly, rancid, vile and mean, the film wastes no time setting up its moronic plot and then sinks into the depths of pure cinematic despair with characters who are hateful across the board. If that weren't enough, this so-called comedy's line-up of pathetic jokes crash violently to the ground every single time, debuting writer-director Jeremy Garelick and co-writer Jay Lavender's (2006's "The Break-Up") preoccupation with cruelty, violence and stereotyping becoming supremely disturbing before the end of the first act.

Doug Harris' (Josh Gad) lavish wedding to fiancée Gretchen Palmer (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) is fast approaching, but there's one very big problem: he has no one to be his best man and groomsmen. An only child whose parents passed away years ago, he has no relatives to speak of and grew up with few friends. Naturally, his absolute only option is to go behind Gretchen's back and hire someone for $50,000 to play his best friend. Enter The Best Man Inc., an underground operation run by one Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart), who makes a living pretending to be lonely guys' buddies in front of their loved ones. Doug will need the Golden Tux package—a best man and seven groomsmen—for his impending nuptials, but convincing Gretchen, her family and the entire wedding party that this charade is actually real will prove more trying than they anticipate. It also doesn't help that the salty-tongued Jimmy is supposed to be a priest in the military named Bic Mitchum.

"The Wedding Ringer" opens so abruptly—there are no studio logos until several minutes in, and the scene appears to already be in mid-flow when it begins—that it seems as if the reels have been mixed up. If this disorienting prologue is disastrously conceived, what follows is far, far worse. The premise all by itself is stupid beyond measure, introducing a protagonist who is unforgivably dishonest to the woman he plans to marry and feels no regret lying to her. At no point in their courtship could he have been truthful to Gretchen and explained the sad but fully understandable circumstances that led to him not having any friends? Furthermore, Doug thinks nothing of plopping down fifty grand to pull off a ruse that might have been solved for free with a single conversation.

So, yeah, the story is implausible to a forehead-slapping degree, but is the movie at least funny? It is if you think an elderly lady being set ablaze and a rapid-fire barrage of homosexual caricatures, hate speech and relentless gay panic are veritable laugh riots. "Does anyone else feel really fucking gay right about now?" asks Gretchen's homophobic macho-man dad (Ken Howard) as he sits in on his daughter's wedding planning. Later, Jimmy recoils in embarrassment when Doug tries to hug him, while the mere sight of two guys embracing in another scene is meant to be the entire punchline. There's also a swishy, effeminate Latino wedding planner named Edmundo (Ignacio Serricchio) who is hiding a secret that somehow achieves the thought-impossible feat of making this cartoon even more offensive than he already is. Meanwhile, the screenplay constructs posing as human beings in front of the camera are so bereft of hearts, minds and common sense it is astonishing they can function at all.

Watching Josh Gad (2013's "The Internship") flounder in a lead role that has been written with the intelligence and accountability of a gnat would be distinctly unpleasant were the rest of the film not twice as despicable. His Doug Harris is ignorant, a grown man with the maturity level of an elementary schooler who brings every last ounce of heartache upon himself. Kevin Hart (2013's "This Is the End") can be enjoyable when keyed into the right part, but when faced with a script as hopeless as this one he cannot even manage to earn a single chuckle. His eventual realization that he has no friends and is just like Doug might have, in a different picture, struck an emotional chord, but it is handled with far too heavy a hand to have any effect. It doesn't help that there isn't a likable person in sight. For a while, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting's (2011's "Hop") Gretchen is envisioned as a sympathetic young woman—one being made a fool of by a future husband who fell in love with her because she was the first girl who showed any interest in him—but by the end she has become just as appallingly vacuous as everyone else. Cuoco-Sweeting can be a luminous, funny, charming presence (look no further than TV's "The Big Bang Theory" for proof), which makes her casting in this inconsiderately thankless role all the more revolting.

"The Wedding Ringer" is a depressing experience that continuously one-ups itself in sheer spiteful repugnance. That the movie is tone deaf is the least of its problems. Still, it is worth acknowledging that a lightweight studio comedy has probably failed if it leaves the viewer with a feeling of unquenchable hatred that only intensifies with each new minute. Toss in a muddy football game that turns into a brutal, childish brawl and a bachelor party where Doug is abducted, nearly killed and almost gets his penis bitten off by a dog with lockjaw—only for him to thank Jimmy afterwards for showing him a good time—and it is safe to say there is not a solitary identifiable or sincere moment to be found in the film's wretched 101 minutes. The level of contempt "The Wedding Ringer" shows its characters and audience is inconceivable.
© 2015 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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