Saturday 31 January 2015

The Wedding Ringer (2015) - Movie Review

Kevin Hart is one of those comedic actors that I just don’t get the appeal of. He always felt like Chris Tucker: The Next Generation, except at least he was in the outstanding Silver Linings Playbook where he was legitimately funny. Hart, on the other hand? Any time I see him in movies, like in Scary Movie 3 and 4 as well as last year’s abysmal Ride Along, he comes across as either annoying without being funny or just being there without standing out; he hasn’t had his Silver Linings role yet. I put off seeing this film last week when it first came out and that was purely because Kevin Hart was in it. But, I have softened a bit concerning other comedic actors like Melissa McCarthy after seeing more of their work, and hell, One Direction seem to get more likeable the more films I see them in. Let’s see if the same happens here.

The plot: Doug Harris (Josh Gad) is about to married to his fiancĂ©e Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) but he doesn’t any friends to serve as his best man or as any of the other groomsmen for that matter. He gets in contact with Jimmy (Kevin Hart), who offers his services as a best man for hire. He gathers a group of ringers to serve as the other groomsmen for the wedding, attempting to pull off a job that Jimmy had only joked about prior to this, and he and Doug start to bond through the process.

In my rationale for why Divergent is the worst movie of 2014, I made mention that it failed from the concept downwards. This is another film like that but not quite to the same extent. We thankfully don’t have an entire society built on this idiotic scheme, although that would be the only explanation as to why such an asinine setup like this would get off the ground. My only guess is, on the production side at least, that they came up with the title "The Wedding Ringer" and then created the plot around it, not once putting any actual thought into the hows and whys of the thing. Jimmy has made many similar deals with grooms in the past, and from what we can tell he makes no real attempt to change his appearance at any point. Eventually, you would think that the wrong person at the wrong time would see Jimmy and his entire scheme would fall apart; then again, that’s relying on the fact that this isn’t an idiot plot which is giving this movie too much credit. Maybe if Jimmy gave decent advice then it could work but, when the best conversational advice he gives is to speak gibberish and always compliment women to distract them, that isn't the case either.

Admittedly, this film does its best to have some heart behind it as it tries to make some points about love and solitude. The continuously watchable stretch of the film is between the dancing scene at another person’s wedding and the conversation with Jimmy and his secretary about his work. Not only is this the only time when the film feels like it’s actually having fun, and thus the audience can too, but it’s also when the film gets in its best writing. There are some hitches during this time, like an out-of-place rendition of Teach Me How To Dougie, as well as some rather warped gender perspectives during the latter conversation, but it also brings a rather interesting point about its own premise.

It begins to question Doug’s entire reason for calling Jimmy in the first place, since him not having any close friends isn’t a sign that he is a complete loser; it just means that he is a bit of a loner. Maybe it’s my own antisocial tendencies peeking through, or rather my want to avoid associating with douchebags on a regular basis, but that honestly felt like proper effort was made in writing that. Then cut to a few minutes later where you have a dog licking up peanut butter off of Doug (No prizes for guessing where), and the film resumes its standard pace of dull and annoying, with some highly infrequent bits of actual comedy. Actually, on that note, this film’s best joke is one that’s sabotaged by the film itself; it’s a pretty dark joke about how bad the fake groomsmen look and comparing them to the cast of the Goonies if they grew up to become rapists, something that got the biggest laugh out of me the entire movie. Then Jimmy admits that one of them is a rapist and the laughter dies like it got a gangland execution.

While I want to point at Kevin Hart or co-star Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting for being horrible in this because of the writing, they themselves aren’t that bad. True, Hart is kind of annoying in this and Kaley kept giving me flashbacks of her prominent role in Geek Blackface, but they are simply working with really bad material. Josh Gad is a good actor in this and he has some decent chemistry with Hart, but his socially awkward loser role is one I’ve seen played countless times before, primarily by actors like Kevin James and Zach Galifianakis. I will give credit that this film at least gives a nod to the writing trend of having bizarrely mismatched couples, where the schlub gets the supposedly hot girlfriend, but that nod is part of the paper-thin story that does nothing to hide how fake this all is.

That, at its core, is the main problem with this film: Even without bringing the main premise into it, this entire production is a sham. Hart and the other actors playing the ‘groomsmen’ are at their best when they’re playing their roles for the job, pretending to know Doug as a friend and sharing fake memories that they’ve had together. Basically, they are really good at pretending not to be complete pricks, even though they totally are in the film’s reality. That’s all this film is: A veneer of sympathy and thoughtfulness that peels away at the slightest breeze to reveal a vile foundation built from rampant misogyny, homophobia, racism, violence against the elderly, jaywalking and lord knows what else. Add to that a rom-com plot that doesn’t even try to pretend that the couple we’re given will stay together, along with an ending that is pure wish-fulfilment and acts as a big middle finger the film’s plot, the audience and common sense in general, and the result is something outright toxic.

All in all, this is trash through and through. The writing exists in its own world where logic and consequences are for losers, constantly throwing vile jokes at the audience in the hope that it can Stockholm laughter out of them. I still give this film some props for avoiding the dreaded third-act break-up entirely, and admittedly Josh Gad does have his moments, but ultimately this had me angry as I left the cinema. This is like that guy who plays music at parties just so he can get laid, since this film also wants to be seen as caring when in reality it’s only after its own satisfaction; it’s the White Guy With Acoustic Guitar of cinema. As for my original question about Kevin Hart and whether this film would make me like him any more than I do, I’ll put it like this: Walking in, I wanted Kevin Hart to be drawn and quartered so I wouldn’t have to deal with him again; walking out, I now want director/co-writer Jeremy Garelick to join him when it happens.

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