By KIMBERLY GRANT
Special to South Florida Times
In The Wedding Ringer, Doug (played by Josh Gad) pays Best Man, Inc. extraordinaire Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart) to pretend to be his best guy friend, Bic Mitchum, at his wedding. That seems easy. All Bic has to do is learn as much about Doug as possible to actually pass for Doug’s old friend. Bic, by the way, happens to be a military chaplain in the U.S. Army who has done tours in Afghanistan. Okay, so it’s not easy, nor is it a simple plot. Except, the film dives headfirst into the raunchy, R-rated arena to bring a male version of Bridesmaids.
In the script by screenwriters Jeremy Garelick (who also directed) and Jay Lavender, Bic and Doug comically form a bond over their shared love of being misfits. They form an unlikely union and fall in friendship in this instantly classic bromance. Hart and Gad actually have great chemistry even though, on the outside, they look very mismatched. The rest of the cast includes Affion Crocket, Jenifer Lewis, Joe Garcia, and Whitney Cummings.
It’s easy to wrongfully write off The Wedding Ringer as another white film where a black man shucks and jives his way into a white audience’s comedy-loving hearts. You’ve got Hart playing a man who gets paid to be another man’s best man at his wedding. That plot point in itself has all kinds of connotation, considering that most black actors and actresses are usually relegated to playing the best friend in big budget films. Only, this time, Hart is a bigger star than Gad. Hart is also a comedian to his core and he obviously plays well with white audiences, which is why he has reached A-list status and can almost carry a film on his own.
But I digress. Hart, in an obvious mash-up of The Wedding Planner, Hitch, and the Hangover franchise, is funny and, thankfully, does not get consumed in coonery, a term some of you may not know. It refers to a black person belittling themselves for the enjoyment of a white audience. This type of acting occurred a lot in the early part of the 20th Century because those were typically the only black roles available. A great example is Prissy the house servant (Butterfly McQueen) in Gone With the Wind. That’s where the phrase, “I don’t know nothing ‘bout birthing no babies!” came from. Gladly, we, the black community, have graduated from that type of entertaining.
This is a chick flick that for men. All of the chick flick and dude movie tentpoles are there (minus things exploding): weddings, flowers, bridesmaids, and an awesome wedding planner for the ladies to watch and a crazy bachelor party, the nuances of guy code, and hot girls for the men. This also makes The Wedding Ringer a great date film. Another great aspect of the film, other than the great comedy, is that it doesn’t specifically have a cookie-cutter happy ending. It’s a bit messy.
There is a lot of idiotic, cock-eyed, nincompoopery in The Wedding Ringer that’s just a tad on the offensive side. Like, when Doug accidentally sets his fiancé, Gretchen’s (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), grandmother (Cloris Leachman) on fire. Or, like when Gretchen’s father, Ed (Ken Howard), bullies Doug on the football field, because Doug is more of a lover and not a fighter. There’s also an unfortunate incident with a dog and some peanut butter, but it’s all in good fun.
Surely, everyone has seen the commercials touting the great audience reactions to the film and how hilarious they found it. They’re not off the mark. The Wedding Ringer is quite funny. It also makes you think about your own relationships and if the one you’re with is the right one for you. Because, Doug doesn’t just need his bride to love him, he also needs a good guy friend to hang out with and share a drink. After all, if this film doesn’t prove anything else, it makes one heck of a statement that friends are in fact the family that you choose. They’re also the ones who will fake being a U.S. Army chaplain for a few weeks; just to impress your fiancé’s family.