Perhaps The Wedding Ringer would best be called a low-brow-mance.
For those who long for a bromantic comedy along the lines of Wedding Crashers, I Love You, Man or The Hangover, this surprisingly sweet and intermittently funny but raunchy buddy flick might suffice (* * ½ out of four; rated R; opens Friday nationwide).
While not as hilarious as those movies, Ringer is more entertaining than expected, given the familiar territory it covers and the bawdiness of some of the gags. The high-concept premise works mostly because of the engaging chemistry between Kevin Hart and Josh Gad. Their inspired pairing makes for a raucous comedy where the occasional gentle moments don't feel manipulative or forced.
Some of the rowdier scenes drag on too long, particularly a mean-spirited football game between young and old guys, and an unfunny bit where a dog takes a bite out of a man's private parts. However, an endearing dance number featuring Gad and Hart almost makes up for the uglier, contrived scenes.
Hart is at his affable best here, not as manic or mouthy as he has been in other films. He slightly tones down his high-energy persona and it works much better for his role as Jimmy, a best man for hire who has a thriving business rescuing grooms who lack a BFF to step into the shiny shoes.
Gad is endearing and goofy as Doug, a dorky attorney who can't quite believe he landed a hottie like Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting). As their wedding day approaches, however, Doug begins to panic. The high-maintenance Gretchen has a wedding party of seven bridesmaids. Doug will have to match them all with groomsmen. But he's a shy workaholic, without the requisite posse of pals. In fact, he doesn't even have one close friend. After exhausting a list of candidates, he learns of Jimmy's services.
Edmundo (Ignacio Serricchio) is a hoot as an ultra-flamboyant wedding planner who is in fact a tattooed former gangster. The film smartly keeps his gay status intact even when he's revealed as a tough guy posing as a mincing fop.
But that clever move gives way to several dumb ones.
Women are generally given short shrift, falling into mildly offensive stereotypes. And the movie's weakest link is the motley crew of groomsmen, who are more politically incorrect than funny. A montage of fake photos implying these guys and Doug had years' worth of wild and wacky adventures together is amusing though, even if the guys themselves are duds.
Hart's Jimmy, however, is pretty terrific. He does his homework and gives great speeches. He knows how to be the life of the wedding party. He's also a convincing actor, often working himself up into a few tears.
As expected, the toast he delivers at Doug's wedding is the most touching of all. The predictability, however, doesn't undermine the appeal.
Cloris Leachman, who plays Gretchen's grandmother, sadly is given little to do. She has just a couple lines of dialogue and is on hand mostly for a crazy, though not unfunny, sight gag.
The saving grace is the camaraderie between Hart and Gad, two talented comic actors who raise the level of a formulaic comedy to something that is both sassy and endearing.
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