“The Wedding Ringer” is “Wedding Crashers Redux,” a “Hangover Lite” that softens manic funnyman Kevin Hart’s persona into someone almost as funny, but more sentimental than abrasive. That helps “Ringer” work as a bromantic comedy that feels like a romantic comedy.
Like “Crashers,” it’s built on a killer conceit. It’s about a guy who hires himself out as a rent-a-best-man. Jimmy Callahan (Hart) rescues grooms who have failed to create and hang onto long-term friendships.
First-time feature director and co-writer Jeremy Garelick flips through scenes of Jimmy wearing a yarmulke or a wig, the life of the party at weddings of all races and genders.
He does his homework and gives a tender, moving wedding-reception toast. He’s so good at pretending to have been in someone’s life for decades, at knowing the groom’s heart, that he leaves the room in tears — every time. Occasionally, a client is so overcome he suggests they pal around afterword. But Jimmy keeps his distance.
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“You know the rules. No contact after final payment.”
Sure, that can make for a lonely life. But Jimmy’s a professional.
Enter sad-sack Doug, played by Josh Gad (“Jobs,” Frozen”) in a breakout role. Doug is about to marry bombshell Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting of “The Big Bang Theory”). Doug knows how lucky he is, but he’s so hapless he doesn’t just need a best man, he needs a team of groomsmen. And he’s rich enough to afford “The Golden Tux” — that’s Jimmy’s full-service treatment.
Hart amps up the energy and makes Gad, a funny guy, funnier. Gad, in term, brings out Hart’s sweet side.
There’s a disastrous first-meeting dinner in which granny (Cloris Leachman) has to catch on fire to keep the bride’s grumpy-wary dad (Ken Howard, hilarious) from uncovering the ruse. The showstopping moment might be when Jimmy discovers Doug’s hidden skill — think “Napoleon Dynamite.”
There’s not much new here. But a savvy, sassy script, smart casting and genuine “I feel sorry for this white boy” chemistry between Hart and Gad make “Wedding Ringer” an R-rated bromance that will touch you as often as it tickles you.