Review – With This Ring(er), I Thee Laugh (“The Wedding Ringer”)

What if you’re a dweeb marrying a hot chick, but you have no friends to be your best man or groomsmen? Who ya gonna call? Why Jimmy Callahan, of course! That’s the set-up for this paint-by-the-numbers crazy comedy starring Kevin Hart and Josh Gad.
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It’s a week away from his wedding and Doug Harris (Gad) is a nervous wreck. He’s engaged to beautiful Gretchen Palmer (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting of TV’s Big Bang Theory before she cut all her hair off) and he’s friendless. The flamboyant wedding planner, Angel (Anthony L. Fernandez–hysterical) tells Doug about B.M.I, (Best Man Inc.), a secretive best man service run by the quick-witted and fast-talking Jimmy Callahan (Hart). For $20K Jimmy will supply everything at a wedding and pose as the best man, but Doug ups the ante and needs the rare “Golden Tux” package, which includes seven groomsmen!

Jimmy poses as Bic Mitchum, Doug’s best friend AND army chaplain to fool Gretchen and her family, but at a friendly lunch get-together, it goes disastrously wrong when Gretchen’s mom (Cloris Leachman) goes up in flames! Yikes!! Then Jimmy has to scrounge up seven guys real fast to pose as Doug’s best buds, but he ends up finding the weirdest bunch of guys you ever saw, including Lurch (Jorge Garcia from TV’s Hawaii 5-0 and Lost) and beefcake Kip (Alan Ritchson who played Aquaman on TV’s Smallville)

Then Gretchen’s bullying father, Ed (Ken Howard) challenges Doug and his groomsmen to a game of football, which goes south real fast. Look for Joe Namath as one Ed’s football buddies. That’s followed by a very odd left turn off the script with a wild bachelor party where Doug meets a smokin’ Nadia (Nicky Whelan–who looks like a younger, hotter Cameron Diaz). There’s also a bit with a dog, some peanut butter, and Doug’s penis, but. . . never mind that.

Anyway, the wedding day arrives, the weirdo seven have their assignments as to their “identities” for the day, and Jimmy is having second thoughts to his business philosophy about never getting attached to the client as a personal friend. Meanwhile, the priest is being kidnapped because he could recognize Jimmy and spoil the whole charade, and Gretchen’s sister, Alison (Olivia Thirlby) is starting to figure stuff out. Will the marriage happen? Will Doug find out about Gretchen’s true feeling’s for him? And what the hell does Doug DO for a living, anyway

Co-written with Jay Lavender, this is director Jeremy Garelick’s first feature film and he shows a real flair for comedy in both his direction and writing. The chemistry with Hart and Gad is just wonderful as is all the gags written in for the other seven groomsmen, but the script hiccups with bizarre side-plots that add nothing to the story. The football game, the bachelor party, and other bite-sized scenes that pop-up to, I’m guessing here, to pad out the movie’s running length. Don’t get me wrong, there are also scenes of sheer hilarity too that more than make up for those Twilight Zone left turns, coupled with dollops of some genuinely nice moments, that made me laugh quite a bit. All in all, this movie (hiccups and all) kept moving and kept delivering the laughs.

And, as a nice little brush stroke at the end, Jorge Garcia delivers the last line of the movie that, if you knew his character from Lost, will just make you LOL.

Silver Streak (1976)
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Having a hustling, fast-talking, black guy talk a confused white guy into doing some pretty wacky things isn’t anything new, just look at Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. This was the first of many movies they made together and one of their best.

Starting with a tasty screenplay by Colin Higgins (who also wrote the scintillating Harold and Maude), the premise was simple: a naive book editor named George Caldwell (Wilder) is traveling from L.A. to Chicago aboard a train called the Silver Streak when he meets a vitamin salesman named Bob Sweet (Ned Beatty) and a woman named Hilly Burns (Jill Clayburgh). George learns that Hilly works for a well-known art historian who is on a publicity tour for his new book about Rembrandt. But complications ensue when George sees Hilly with a nefarious art dealer named Roger Devereau (Patrick McGoohan) who is holds Hilly hostage because of something called “the Rembrandt letters”.

Then Bob Sweet reveals that he’s really an undercover FBI guy trying to get those Rembrandt letters to prove that Devereau is a master criminal. George is quickly thrown off the train by Devereau’s goons when he tries to help and that’s where he meets fast-talking con man, Grover T. Muldoon (Pryor). Together they steal a cop car and reach a train depot where Grover disguises George as a black man to re-board the train, since George has been framed for Sweet’s death and is now wanted!

The Feds get in on the action once the guys are back on board the train and they attempt a rescue of Hilly, but Devereau catches wise and a shoot-out ensues. The ending is a jaw-dropping, nail-biting sequence you wouldn’t expect in this kind of comedy, but director Arthur Hiller lets it play out with all its spectacular results. Wilder and Pryor are a natural pairing here and went on to do three other films together, Stir Crazy, See No Evil-Hear No Evil, and Another You. . . of which, only Stir Crazy was worth watching.

It’s Pryor and Wilder that really sell this movie. Just watch their chemistry on film as the movie progresses and you can imagine what was happening after the director yelled, “Cut!”. They must have been had so much fun making this together that is resonates, especially in the bathroom scene where Pryor tries to explain to Wilder how to “be black”. It’s the choice part of the movie.

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