Romantic comedies are a reliable and comfortable genre. We know two people are going to fall in love, and we expect that to happen. But simply satisfying an audience’s expectations doesn’t always result in a good film. Shotgun Wedding is a solidly okay entry into the genre, with successful moments elevated by the strong cast.
The last romantic comedy Jennifer Lopez starred in was Marry Me, less than a year ago. Before that, it had been a while since she graced the genre with her presence. However, with films like The Wedding Planner and Maid in Manhattan in her filmography, it’s a place she fits on screen. Her love interest in this film, Josh Duhamel, has a similar history, with titles like Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! and When in Rome. Fans can rest assured that these leads know their way around the formula. “What about the rest of the cast,” you ask? Well, casting supporting actors with comedic chops is the best idea for a project like this. Audiences get Cheech Marin, Jennifer Coolidge, and D’Arcy Carden. The story these performers get to work with could’ve been a little more worthy of them.
Moments that truly emphasize romance, humor, or action in the right way are there in Shotgun Wedding but are more sporadic than they should be.
“You look so much better than the rest of us.”
Lopez and Duhamel play Darcy and Tom, a couple about to have a big destination wedding at a private island resort in the Philippines. They are dealing with typical stress, like Tom trying to please Darcy’s father and Darcy’s ex Sean (Lenny Kravitz!) showing up. There’s even a bit of tension between the bride and groom themselves. But that gets overshadowed when a brutal gang of pirates swarm in and take all the guests hostage shortly before the ceremony. Darcy and Tom were off having a bit of a fight when this happened, so the pirates pursue them around the resort.
Now, it takes a suspension of disbelief to accept this premise to begin with. We learn that this resort has been hit by pirates the previous month as well, so are we supposed to believe that a destination wedding venue wouldn’t have better security? Besides that, the humor isn’t consistent. The first part of this film, let’s say half hour, isn’t as funny as it tries to be. The laughs come more frequently as the film goes on.
Another questionable aspect of the writing has to do with the lead characters. The early fight between them feels more contrived than a natural conflict arising from their personalities. It feels a bit like the writer just assumed they should be at odds during their adventure to stay alive and save their guests, so he wrote it that way instead of organically crafting the tension. Later tiffs between them have a touch of this feeling, as well.
“It’s something special but it’s not magic.”
Lopez and Duhamel both have action roles in their past work, as they do rom-coms, but their characters here do not initially fit that description. Darcy is a lawyer, and Tom is a baseball player whose career is probably coming to an end. But the two become remarkably adept at physical confrontations with the pirates, who are supposed to be experienced, hardened criminals. It’s a little suspect. Particularly when you add in the unfortunate detail that Darcy usually faints at the sight of blood.
The two leads have a good level of chemistry, though. A few emotional beats really allow them to showcase a sweet dynamic. But there aren’t enough of them. I loved the moment when they convince the pirates to let them have a ceremony (though it’s just a plot to take them by surprise) and the guests all start singing “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain. It’s quite romantic. Then, it turns funny when one of the pirates joins in! Of the other actors, recent awards darling Jennifer Coolidge stands out as Tom’s mom. Just wait for the bit when they all turn the tables on the pirates and she gets her hands on a machine gun!
The resolution to the hostage plot, as to why the pirates were there and who is responsible, is mostly ridiculous…but a little fun, too. I’ll let viewers discover that for themselves while they watch. The resolution of the central romance is pretty satisfying after everything we’ve watched. Darcy and Tom sort of get re-engaged, and the wedding does finally, actually happen. Shotgun Wedding doesn’t blend enough romance or laughs with its over-the-top action, but romantic comedy buffs won’t be wasting their time.
3 stars out of 5
Shotgun Wedding is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.