The Academy Award nominations have been announced, and the coveted golden statuettes will be handed out at the Academy’s 87th ceremony on Feb. 22. Of course this means Hollywood already has released the year’s best films, and from now until the summer season finding movies worth seeing may prove quite challenging. The good news is that some of television’s best shows like “The Americans, “Scandal,” and “How To Get Away With Murder” already have returned, and the third season of the incomparable “House of Cards” will be available on Netflix at the end of February.
After a number of consecutive weeks during which I watched and reviewed some of Hollywood’s finest movies, I now find myself searching through the dregs for something to see, and this week’s unfortunate choice was “The Wedding Ringer,” a frenetic, loud, raunchy, lackluster comedy that’s about as funny as having extensive dental work sans Novocain. All right, the sooner we get to it, the sooner we get it finished.
“The Wedding Ringer” tells the story of Doug Harris (Josh Gad), a wealthy but nerdy tax lawyer who manages to meet Gretchen Palmer (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), the kind of super-hot woman who ordinarily wouldn’t look at him once, let alone twice. Much to Doug’s amazement Gretchen accepts his marriage proposal, and now his real problems begin. Doug has no friends, and Gretchen wants a huge wedding with a bridal party of seven bridesmaids, which in turn necessitates the presence of seven groomsmen. But poor Doug can’t even find anyone willing to be his best man. Ah the trials of being a nebbish!
Doug is so desperate that he finally follows the advice of his party planner, Edmundo (Ignacio Serricchio), and goes to The Best Man Inc., an organization owned and operated by Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart), who rents himself out as a best man for people like Doug. At first Jimmy thinks that Doug’s case will be routine, but when the groom-to-be says that in addition to a best man he also needs seven groomsmen, Jimmy flips out and explains that such a ploy is known in the trade as a “Golden Tux,” and it’s never been done before. But money talks, and when Doug agrees to pay an outrageous fee, Jimmy takes the job.
Doug’s relationship with Gretchen in predicated on lies because he has told her he has all kinds of exotic friends, and he’s also fabricated a past for Jimmy, whom he has dubbed Bic Mitchum. The name was inspired by a Bic razor and Mitchum deodorant in his medicine chest.
In order to pull off the “Golden Tux,” Jimmy recruits some real winners as groomsmen, including an escaped criminal, a plumber, an airline security agent, a guy who can dislocate his shoulder, and a fellow with three testicles. As you would expect, all the lies snowball and lead up to a chaotic wedding with enough hitches to keep the Budweiser Clydesdales in business forever.
I found “The Wedding Ringer” insultingly stupid and needlessly tasteless, but I recognize that there must be a market for films like this because they make money at the box office. I’m not even going to bore you with a description of some of the so-called “humor” in the film other than to say much of it involves “jokes” about gays and sight gags about body parts. Sorry, but this isn’t my kind of humor.
As the film progresses, it becomes more of a bromance involving Doug and Jimmy than a story about a botched wedding. Both Gad and Hart really throw themselves into their respective roles, and Gad actually succeeds in making Doug pathetically likable. In the film’s production notes, he offered an analysis of his character.
“Doug is a little bit neurotic. No, strike that; Doug is very, very neurotic. He’s in a little bit over his head as he is getting married to a type A personality, and his fiancée tells him that basically she’s going to have seven bridesmaids, and he’d better have a groomsman to match every bridesmaid. He soon realizes that he doesn’t have any friends who he can call because he’s never really made any close friends in his life. But he doesn’t have the guts to tell her this and ruin her perfect wedding.”
Despite their apparent attraction to one another early in the film, it doesn’t take a super soothsayer to predict that the wedding between the princess and the geek is doomed. In the production notes, Cuoco-Sweeting explained the transformation her character goes through.
“Gretchen starts out like Little Miss Sunshine; sweet and not affected, but as the wedding gets closer she gets more stressed and a little darker. She doesn’t start out that way, but there’s definitely a bit of a build, which is fun. Gretchen’s family isn’t exactly in love with Doug. I don’t really understand it, but they think that she should be with a gorgeous, tall athlete. Doug and Gretchen’s relationship is cute at the beginning, and you think that they are both totally in love, but as things go on, you see that Gretchen is probably in the relationship for a lot of the wrong reasons.”
As much as I disliked this movie, I will admit that Ken Howard and Mimi Rogers were appealingly amusing as Gretchen’s parents, who believe their daughter is marrying beneath her station in life. And the film also features cameos from former pro football greats Joe Namath, John Riggins, and Ed “Too Tall” Jones.
So here’s the bottom line. If you want to see a pretty funny movie about weddings, get a copy of “The Wedding Crashers.” If, on the other hand, you’re in the mood for a film rife with bawdy humor, some gay-bashing, and a ridiculously convoluted plot, this one is for you. Although the film did nothing for me, the presence of Howard and Rogers made it watchable, and Gad and Hart did have their moments. Therefore, “The Wedding Ringer” earns the final score of a reluctant six bells.