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'The Wedding Ringer' review: Kevin Hart, Josh Gad's chemistry saves the day

Josh Gad, left, as Doug, and Kevin Hart,

Josh Gad, left, as Doug, and Kevin Hart, as Jimmy, in a scene from Screen Gems' "The Wedding Ringer." Credit: AP / Matt Kennedy

Doug Harris is the schlubby but likable hero of "The Wedding Ringer," a comedy built on a seemingly implausible premise. Doug, played by Josh Gad, is facing his wedding day without a single person to put on his guest list. How can that be, at a time when we've never had so many followers, likes and "friends?"

Enter Kevin Hart as Jimmy Callahan, the best-man-for-hire who reassures Doug that the average person's friends have dwindled in number from 3 to 2 since 1985. That may be a sales pitch but it somehow rings true. It's a nice line, and an indication that "The Wedding Ringer," despite much R-rated humor, is a comedy with heart.

It also has the on-screen chemistry of Gad and Hart, who make an endearing team as the friendless Doug and the money-minded Jimmy. "No contact after payment" is Jimmy's retort to grooms who think the act was real -- though clearly Doug's case will be different. Jimmy has to hire a whole crew of miscreants (one is played by Jorge Garcia, of "Lost") to pose as Doug's pals. We know that by the time they're done memorizing facts and falsifying photos, the fake feelings will turn real.

"The Wedding Ringer" began life more than a decade ago as "The Golden Tux," a screenplay by Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender, but sat neglected while similar concepts ("Wedding Crashers," "I Love You, Man") made it to the screen. Garelick directs the movie, and you can almost sense his joy at seeing it realized. The jokes are crass -- strippers, dogs, peanut butter -- but never mean-spirited. Even Doug's bossy fiancee, Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), gets treated humanely.

"The Wedding Ringer" is hit and miss. Some ideas come out of nowhere -- a football game with Joe Namath, for instance -- and the film often ignores its own logic for the sake of a joke (Doug turns out to be a phenomenal dancer). What saves the film are its two leads, who aren't afraid to show their sensitive sides -- along with other parts of themselves.

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