“The Wedding Ringer” is Hollywood’s attempt to co-opt the traditional wedding comedy by way of the bromance. Instead of a romance where groom-to-be and bride-to-be endure a series of hijinks on their way to rekindling why they’re getting married in the first place, the opposite is at play here. In addition to the best man for hire high concept, the latest vehicle for Kevin Hart’s particular brand of funny is about a guy finally getting to be “one of the guys” while realizing that his bride-to-be is not to be. As typical in predictable comedies, the audience gradually discovers said significant other is a douchebag or a shrew, depending on the gender. It’s the sort of movie that requires a certain suspension of disbelief, sometimes too much, to believe one of these two people wouldn’t have ran away already. Between occasional doses of overt sexism and a laundry list of wedding movie cliches (the disapproving father-in-law, the disastrous dinner, the cool sister/bridesmaid), it’s a surprise that “The Wedding Ringer” isn’t worse than it is. Most of that can be chalked up to the miniature ball of charisma that is Kevin Hart, a comedian who runs circles around well-meaning cast-mates Josh Gad and Kaley Cuoco. The latter isn’t given much beyond the two-faced bitch-isms of a “not the one,” and when it comes to Gad’s protagonist, the script seems to think that sympathy cards pass for character development. The unconventional friendship between Hart and Gad is conventional in its trajectory, but endearing nonetheless, in spite of everything surrounding them. Some clever montages provide for clever laughs in spurts, but they’re few and far between thanks to erratic editing. It’s a comedy with its heart in the right place, but not enough originality nor likability to earn the majority of its jokes, or its own heart for that matter. At least it’s better than “Ride Along.”
There’s not much to David Gordon Green’s return to indie dramedy, but that’s okay. He presumably set out to capture the isolated existence of two men on the road, for three months committed to painting lines down a winding street in a sticks town ravaged by wildfire. “Prince Avalanche” is a portrait of disaffected masculinity as exemplified by a straight-edged romantic of tenuous certainty and certain uncertainty about his middle-aged life, in particular his far away girlfriend whom he sends letters and dollars to while he camps in the woods for work. Then there’s the girlfriend’s younger brother who works for him, a meandering, immature kid with a dim bulb and a decent heart, scrapping to get laid on the weekends if he can hack it. These two are antonyms until they become synonyms, bonding as the chips fall around them and their respective ladies bounce for greener pastures. Alvin (Paul Rudd) thinks himself a thinking man’s man, a doer of love, loyalty, and hard work who’s older, wiser, and knows what’s what. It takes hours, days spent lording tutelage over Lance (Emile Hirsch) before that facade begins to crack, under the pressure of a long road ahead, under the weight of broken relationships. Alvin and Lance’s silly scuffles and screaming matches eventually give way to bonding over liquor, unrequited love, and their shared alienation from the world. They’re lost men, laboring away with unseen goals and un-tethered homes, much like the town’s citizens whose houses were wasted in that recent fire. Now they pilfer through the ashes of their lives, hoping to scrummage something of worth, something to hold onto. If not, at least they have each other. “Prince Avalanche” is the smirking sort of funny, a distant riff on a peculiar sort of crisis, one which lacks an emotional wallop, but packs an oddball charm that can’t be denied.