At a certain point in the mid 2000s, I realized there was a certain type of comedy style that pervaded American cinema. This stylehas a mundane, overly lit, visual style filled with alternating zany madcap moments and heartfelt speechifying. The end result feels more like a product birthed from the mind of a marketer than an actual movie. The same sense of humor will get generated in generic movie after generic movie, with the defining differences being derived from whomever might be starring in the movie and the fill-in-the-blank plot of the movie.
I think I noticed this style somewhere around 2005’s Monster-in-Law, which means it had been around for years previous to that. I’m pretty sure it applies all the way back to 1995’s Houseguest, and the last movie I watched with this sensibility was Sex Tape. In between there have probably been countless generic, bland, “zany” comedies like The Guilt Trip which have nothing deep or personal to say or do for hours at a time.
The latest of this fill-in-the-blank comedy style is The Wedding Ringer, a movie about a rich geek with no friends, Doug (Josh Gad), who is about to marry a hot rich woman with no discernible personality (Katey Cuoco-Sweeting playing Not Penny). Devoid of groomsmen, he hires Jimmy (Kevin Hart) to play his invented best friend, a priest in the military named Bic Mitchum. In order to give Doug the wedding party he needs, which includes 7 groomsmen, Jimmy hires a ragtag bunch of people to show Jimmy a good time. Much zaniness ensues.
As the movie wears on, The Wedding Ringer wants to explore the emotional toll of acting and posing as something you’re not. It would love to explore whether being fake friends is actually good enough to sustain a soul, whether image is everything, whether your dreams are hollow constructions created from too many advertisements, etc etc. As per usual in the generic formula, we already know all of these answers and can see most of the movie from the opening scenes. Predictability isn’t a crime, as long as it can be funny while doing it.
The weird part of The Wedding Ringer is that it can be funny at times. I remember laughing at it, but a mere hour later there are only two scenes I can distinctly remember, one of which is in the commercials. The problem is that the generic nature of the movie makes almost everything forgettable. The only truly memorable stuff within The Wedding Ringer is when it goes off the usual formula, which it does periodically in the side character of Edmundo, the wedding planner.
Gamely played by Ignacio Serricchio, Edmundo starts as a flaming homosexual stereotype but then is shown at home to be a regular gay brother from around the block. He admits that he’s selling the flaming identity after 1991’s Father of the Bride made everybody want to have Martin Short’s flaming stereotype as their wedding planner (see also: David Tutera). Even though, The Wedding Ringer is gaining points by subverting the usual blockbuster stereotype, it tries to have its cake and eat it too. The Wedding Ringer is able to wring laughs from the flaming stereotype, as well as the homophobia of the characters who buy into the stereotype, even though it is also trying to subvert it.
Even though The Wedding Ringer would love to be a movie dedicated to subverting tropes, the rest of the movie is a total bro movie. Not Penny is portrayed as kind of a bitch, her sister is drawn to the charismatic liar of Jimmy, and there’s a black female secretary who is only around to be female Morgan Freeman for one scene by giving out sage advice as the older wiser person. What The Wedding Ringer gains in racial diversity — the lovable losers are of a variety of races — it loses in gender diversity. In fact, at times, it can be downright sexist, deriving laughs from non-consensual objectification and ass-slapping on multiple occasions. Maybe The Wedding Ringer thinks there is subversion by having a tall thin guy harassing larger women, but the jokes are totally carbon copied from J.B. Smoove in Top Five.
Make of all this what you will. It made me laugh, but I can’t even remember much of what I found funny. The Wedding Ringer is a pleasant diversion of a film, destined to be instantly forgettable unless it sees a second life on basic cable.