Sunday, January 18, 2015

May the Best Man Win

By Tinsel & Tine Blog Contributor TERRI HEARD

Okay, here’s how the story was supposed to go. I was supposed to go to med school, become a doctor, make six figures, have a big, suburban house, get married and have the requisite 2.3 kids. All of it would be accompanied by fabulous hair, a fashion-forward wardrobe, a fit physique, and vacations in far away locales.

Here’s how the story actually goes. I went to college a year early, spent three years as a Biology major, dumped it in exchange for a journalism degree and now toil away as a low paid writer in a crummy studio apartment in the city, carrying more pounds than I care to count. When I put it that way, even I want to cringe – and the feeling only gets worse when I have to go to one of those high-pressure – I mean high-profile – family or social events when all eyes are on you. I mean really, my life doesn’t exactly fit the image of the American Dream does it?

In some reality somewhere, I think I’m supposed to be caught up in a whirlwind of passionate relationships and riveting experiences that show my neighbors and relatives just how exciting and meaningful my life is. Too often I feel like if I can’t do that I should fake it just so it looks like I’m keeping pace with everyone else. After all, mediocrity is for losers, so may the best man win. -When the best man is Jimmy Callahan, he usually does. Or at least he cashes in. Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart) in The Wedding Ringer is the kind of social paramedic I could use. Jimmy lives for – or rather lives off of – losers like me, I mean Doug Harris (Josh Gad). Doug is a lovable schlub who’s standing at the kick off line of the super bowl of social events – his upcoming wedding. Somehow, he’s managed to land Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), a Malibu-Barbie hot blonde fiancée, with perfect hair, the right wardrobe and fine, upstanding family. Yet Doug can’t manage to scrape together a group of groomsmen. After ransacking his yearbook still leaves him without even one warm body to fill out another tux, Doug turns to Jimmy. Can’t find a friend? He’ll be your best friend – for a reasonably priced fee of course and a contractually determined time frame. Need a best man? Call Jimmy. He’ll stand in to throw your bachelor party, stand beside you at the altar, stand up at your reception to toast you and your bride, and stand as proof to your family that you’re not the friendless loser they suspect (and you know) you are.

No matter what the religion or ethnicity of the wedding party, Jimmy’s got an array of personas that will fit right in. Like any good businessman, Jimmy’s also got a range of packages to fit every budget, from the bronze bow tie to the silver tux. He’s even got the super-deluxe package, the $50,000 Golden Tuxedo. No one’s ever been desperate enough to need the Golden Tuxedo until Doug. When Jimmy realizes that Doug doesn’t just need a best man, but a whole freakin’ line up – 7 groomsmen to be exact – he bails. Sure pulling it off would be an ego and financial boost, but not even Jimmy has come across as big of a loser as Doug. He relents when Doug plays on his pity – and of course agrees to pay full price.

Watching this bromance play out against our voyeuristic, reality-TV watching, keeping up with the Joneses’ culture makes for a comedy that also offers oh-so-subtle – and satisfying – social commentary. It’s hard to be a full human being when every relationship and experience has become a competition or commodity. People are more focused on cashing in or out-classing their peers rather than connecting with them. The tragedy is that it’s frequently not because they don’t want to but because social and financial pressures mean they can’t. Only a precious few have enough cash to make life truly comfortable and, dare I say it, civilized. And the ones who do either had to sacrifice every connection to get there or, like Doug, suffer from the consequences of parents who did. So money is the prescription for every ill.

Too friendless to come up with your own groomsmen? Jimmy delivers. Sure, one’s an ex-con, another one has a creepy nervous tic, and another one is a low-level TSA agent who gets his kicks out of groping passengers in the name of security. And sure, like Jimmy they’re all just in it for the money and the chicks – always easier to pick up at weddings! – but Jimmy delivers. Need to show proof you’ve actually got a life and people who care about you? Jimmy comes through there too. He and his bought-and-sold groomsman cycle through faked up versions of glacier climbing, scuba diving, bowling and partying. Every activity is faithfully photographed and ready to impress Doug’s future in-laws, Gretchen’s sweetly clueless mother Lois (Mimi Rogers), simmeringly belligerent father Ed (Ken Howard) and hysterically mute Grandma (Cloris Leachman). When Doug and Jimmy actually manage to pull off a dinner with Gretchen’s family, Jimmy decides to go for the gold. He and the groomsmen drag Doug off for the guys’ getaway he never had with hilariously mixed results.

Coming off a string of 3 box office successes in one year alone (Think Like a Man Too, Ride Along and About Last Night) Kevin Hart has been on a roll lately and The Wedding Ringer shows every sign of keeping it going. Backed by a highly likeable cast that also includes Lost alumnus Jorge Garcia and the always rock-solid Jennifer Lewis, Hart’s got everything he needs to push him even closer to the ranks of his comedic forerunners. Although he lacks the leading man looks of Eddie Murphy or Will Smith, or the surgically precise social commentary of Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle, Hart packs a comedic punch that’s thoroughly his own. While not quite as much of a hustler as the characters Martin Lawrence usually plays, he’s got the same savvy street smarts and likeability that make you root for him no matter what he’s doing or how big of a “scam” his onscreen characters are running.

Hart was recently quoted in the Hollywood Reporter as saying that “I’m not interested in politics” so he more than likely had no intention of making any kind of comment on how the years since the 2008 bank crisis and burst housing bubble has raised the stakes in our eternal game of one-upmanship. Nevertheless it doesn’t stop him from mining comedy from it. Despite some serious – and seriously funny – gross-out humor, this movie will have you in stitches from beginning to end. 

Maybe neither you nor I will make it to the winner’s circle of life but at least this movie will make sure we enjoy the ride.

Terri Heard is a Philadelphia-based writer who is working on her first novel, Dirty Lens, while adding to her film production credits, which include independent short film, Compromised. Visit The Online Film Festival to vote for Compromised, directed by Angelique Marshall from a script written by Floyd Marshall, Jr.

Terri's LAMB Score:3.5 outta 5

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About This Blog

is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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