It isn’t enough to say that The Wedding Ringer is reminiscent of other films. This big, brash, occasionally clever, but mostly dumb comedy is so gallingly derivative that watching it feels like playing a game of basic-cable bingo. When portly, socially awkward Doug (Josh Gad) enlists the help of Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart), a suave, fast-talking entrepreneur who provides best-man services for needy grooms, he gains newfound confidence and swagger, their dynamic bringing to mind Kevin James and Will Smith’s in Hitch. To round out the rest of the groomsmen, Jimmy collects a ragtag group of oddballs, not unlike the motley crew Paul Rudd assembles in I Love You, Man. (Doug and Jimmy’s business agreement eventually blossoms into friendship, and their contrived rapport reeks of that film’s central relationship, not to mention every other vaguely Apatowian bromance story.) And to help him prepare for the nuptials, Jimmy and Doug infiltrate some stranger’s wedding, their zany antics modeled after Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn’s in Wedding Crashers.
There are a few inspired moments that break up the banality of this borrowed, indifferently shot tosh, most notably a pair of sequences so oddly extemporaneous from the plot that they’re almost surreal—one a bachelor party that gradually becomes a drug-induced, vulgarly cartoonish high-speed police chase, and the other a backyard football game that similarly devolves into a brutal street fight. And while Hart is one of the quickest and most amusing comedic presences in movies today, the sort of performer whose manic affectations are the natural manifestations of his lyrically wired persona, his talent and conviction doesn’t excuse the film’s mean-spirit jabs at gays and women. Or disguise the truth that The Wedding Ringer is like so many other Hollywood comedies designed to enjoy eternal life on TV sandwiched between reality dating shows and reruns of The Big Bang Theory.