Synopsis: A couple’s extravagant destination wedding is hijacked by criminals. In saving their families, they rediscover why they fell in love in the first place.
Stars: Jennifer Lopez, Josh Duhamel, Sônia Braga, Jennifer Coolidge, Lenny Kravitz, Cheech Marin, Callie Hernandez
Director: Jason Moore
Running Length: 100 minutes
TMMM Score: (5/10)
Review: I can safely say that my days as a +1-wedding guest are over. Most of our friends are either married or “set in their ways,” so my anxiety about meeting an entirely new wedding party and making small talk is, thankfully, over. (If you’re reading this and I came to your wedding: I loved it, I had a great time, and the main course was delicious.) You all know what I’m talking about, though, right? It’s awkward to dive into a situation where you have limited time to get up to speed with your surroundings and might be joining intense (or tense) drama already in motion.
Perhaps that’s why the opening of Shotgun Wedding was such a struggle for me. This new film starring Jennifer Lopez (Marry Me) and Josh Duhamel (Love, Simon) is advertised as an action rom-com set in the paradise of the Dominican Republic, but you wouldn’t know it based on the first twenty minutes. Here, writer Mark Hammer and director Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect) ask the viewer to hit the ground running while looking backward for clues about where we came from.
The night before their wedding, bride Darcy (Lopez) is hoping that her “groomzilla” Tom (Duhamel) will stop obsessing over the nitpicky details of their nuptials and relax. At least he can help ease her stress dealing with her divorced parents (Cheech Marin and Sônia Braga), who continue to trade barbs or run interference with his overly bubbly mother (Jennifer Coolidge, Single All the Way). Her sister (Callie Hernandez, Jethica) is no help because she’s looking for a one-night stand, failing to remember she’s on a private island populated with men she’ll have to face the rest of the weekend. It gets really awkward when Darcy’s ex (Lenny Kravitz, The Hunger Games) makes a grand entrance via helicopter, spiking Tom’s alpha male jealousy.
Family drama is the least of their worries the following day when a band of pirates overtakes the luxury resort where the wedding ceremony is held, demanding Darcy’s father transfer millions of dollars for her safe return. However, the guests don’t know the pirates have failed to secure the bridal couple, leaving the bickering pair to make their way around the island, often clumsily evading capture. Dodging bullets and being stuck with a live grenade or two, they’ll need to warm up their cold feet and iron out any differences if they hope to save their wedding, their guests, and their lives.
Sitting through the film’s opening stretch is a bit of a head-scratcher, mainly because you wonder if you’ve accidentally sat on your remote and fast-forwarded through a pivotal introduction. Much of Hammer’s dialogue has characters carrying on conversations they’ve already begun or picking up where they left off as if we’ve already been privy to these discussions. Tom has supposedly been a dreadful “groomzilla,”…and we know this because? He’s seen at the beginning decorating the honeymoon getaway boat. What a nightmare! Darcy and Tom have a misalignment of understanding of the roles in their relationship, and it’s gotten so bad that when Darcy brings a small point up, it creates the type of havoc usually reserved for the final twenty minutes of a bedroom farce. Basically, the film opens in Act 2 of a three-act play.
Admittedly, Shotgun Wedding finds its groove on the wedding day and becomes a fair bit of fun. While it teeters on the side of too gruesome if you consider the violence (stabbings, burnings, shootings, etc.), it thankfully doesn’t play its macabre hand for goofy laughs either. Lopez is the most committed person on screen (as usual), throwing herself handily into the role with the movie star charm she’s perfected. If Duhamel can’t quite match her, perhaps it’s because he was a last-minute replacement for Armie Hammer, who dropped out for obvious reasons. (That also explains away why Coolidge is playing Duhamel’s mother, though they were born 11 years apart.) I have to say that I got a big kick out of Braga (Kiss of the Spider Woman), who takes the typically thinly written spurned-wife role and manages to make a complete meal out of it.
For fans of the stars (and of the ever-popular Coolidge, who gets a few good zingers), Shotgun Wedding should be a moderately filling slice of cake. It won’t leave you with much of a hangover…or the desire to revisit it later. That’s going to be troublesome to its studio hoping to gain traction with fans of its mega-watt superstar lead because that re-watch factor has made the previous films Lopez has scored with such gigantic hits.