Review: “The Wedding Ringer” shines on screen

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Review: “The Wedding Ringer” shines on screen

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By Sara Tucker, managing editor

Boyfriend is a rich loser with no friends; girlfriend is hot with a ton of friends; boyfriend and girlfriend get engaged. Cue the wedding madness portrayed in new comedy “The Wedding Ringer,” starring Kevin Hart (“Ride Along”), Josh Gad (“Frozen”) and Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting (“The Big Bang Theory”).

Hart plays Jimmy Callahan, the founder and CEO of Best Man, Inc., whom Doug Harris (Gad) seeks out when his fiancée, Gretchen Palmer (Cuoco-Sweeting), drops the bomb that he’ll need seven groomsmen in addition to a best man. Harris, after making several calls to middle school camp friends and high school classmates, can’t even find one.

Callahan’s services include standing in as the best man of the groom-to-be, complete with a back story on how the two met and have spent countless hours together doing things like climbing mountains, scuba diving and participating in a bowling league (photos of all these things are quickly fabricated in one of the film’s best scenes).

Before meeting Callahan, Harris made up a best man figure, Bic Mitchum, whom Callahan has to hilariously fit the bill for. Mitchum is a supposed priest in the army. Callahan shows up for the couple’s family dinner in army pants and a black button-down, complete with clerical collar, receiving several interested looks from family members before accidentally setting Palmer’s grandmother on fire.

Callahan is more than used to acting the part of the best man, but Harris’ situation is a special one because he also requires seven groomsmen. Callahan recruits an interesting cast of characters to stand at the altar with Harris, a set Palmer refers to as the “strangest looking group of guys [she has] ever seen.” The group is played by actors including Jorge Garcia (“Lost”), Aaron Takahashi (“Yes Man”) and Alan Ritchson (“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”).

The movie’s best scenes revolve around the groomsmen, who have to appear as though they’ve been life-long friends in just a few days. One of the set, who was just released from prison, is forced to play his role in a wheelchair as part of the fabricated backstory Harris created for him. Another, who excels only in looking pretty, has to act the part of a podiatrist, which he believes is a “kid’s doctor.”

The chemistry in the unlikely group is undeniable, and the scenes devoted to the guys, like a football game played against Harris’ father-in-law-to-be and friends, result in some undeniable laughs made all the more funny when the viewer remembers that these people met only a day or two before.

Gad plays the part of the rich loser well and excels at growing into the character as he spends more and more time with his new friends. Harris is outwardly shy and awkward at the beginning of the film, but, by the end, he is more confident and realizes that he doesn’t have to rely on Palmer to tell him how to act.

Cuoco-Sweeting’s character is a bit of a manipulator, but the actress successfully plays both the sweet and the selfish sides of Palmer. Her character is one the audience will love to hate by the end of the flick, but Cuoco-Sweeting jumps right into the bad girl act, throwing a temper tantrum and complaining about her $8,000 dress before the wedding is over.

Hart is undoubtedly the most dynamic of the lead characters. As he hops from wedding to wedding and character to character, and then back to himself, Hart succeeds in revealing the inner workings of Callahan – a man fed up with acting out the life he wants for himself. In one of the movie’s deeper scenes, Callahan’s assistant asks him who his best man would be if he were to get married, and Callahan realizes that, despite his outward cool, he doesn’t really care about anyone and wants that to change.

Callahan and Harris become real friends and a drunken night by the pool talking about the past solidifies this friendship.

The Harris-Callahan relationship effectively replaces the Harris-Palmer relationship as the film’s focus, and the transition couldn’t be smoother. Hart and Gad have great on-screen chemistry, and viewers will find themselves rooting for the duo between fits of laughter for the entirety of the film.

Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.