Jennifer Lopez loves doing wedding movies the way Kevin Costner loves doing sports movies, and by my count Lopez has played a bride onscreen nine times (cue the Mrs. Bueller reaction, NINE TIMES?) in fare including last year’s “Marry Me,” “The Back-up Plan” (2010), “Monster-in-Law” (2005), “The Wedding Planner” (2001) and now “Shotgun Wedding,” which shares something else in common besides weddings with the aforementioned films.
All due respect to Lopez’ longevity and acknowledging that some of these films have their diehard fans, J. Lo has never scored with a classic romantic comedy, and though she once again gives it her all and dives into another ludicrous premise, there’s no salvaging this deliberately over-the-top, mixed-genre effort that plays like a slapstick take on “Die Hard” at a wedding. That’s kind of intriguing, but the execution is lacking in sharpness and bite.
In fact, director Jason Moore (“Pitch Perfect”), working from a screenplay by Mark Hammer, gives the film the look of a straightforward, R-rated actioner, complete with extended action sequences (featuring not-great CGI), lots of explosions and some fairly gruesome hand-to-hand combat sequences.
It’s an interesting idea to juxtapose that style with the usual wedding-movie plots about the couple having last-minute jitters and the about-to-be-in-laws behaving in embarrassing ways and the best friends of the bride and groom hooking up. But the jokes often fall flat, and by the time we get to the point where everyone assembled just happens to know the words of a long-ago pop hit, and yes, we already saw that with “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” we’re convinced this is one proposal that never should have reached the aisle.
(“Shotgun Wedding” did have something of a long engagement. At first, Ryan Reynolds was slated to play Lopez’ fiancé. Then it was Armie Hammer, whose personal controversies and troubles led to Josh Duhamel taking the role.)
When we meet Lopez’ Darcy and Duhamel’s Tom, they’ve gathered with friends and family for a Destination Wedding at a resort in the Philippines (with the Dominican Republic as the actual filming location), much to the dismay of Darcy’s wealthy father, Robert (Cheech Marin), who laments that they could have been at the Four Seasons if they had allowed him to pay for everything. (I dunno. It’s still a lavish setting that would be beyond the reach of 99% of engaged couples.)
In rapid fashion, we meet the wedding party, including:
- Darcy’s younger sister Jamie (Callie Hernandez), a wisecracking hardass who inexplicably hooks up with Tom’s wacky best buddy Ricky (Desmin Borges).
- Tom’s warm and loving but socially clunky parents Larry (Steve Coulter), who records everything with a video camera straight out of the early 2000s, and Carol (Jennifer Coolidge, YES!), who is pretty much like every character Jennifer Coolidge has played in recent years, and we’re really good with that.
- Darcy’s regal and icy mother Renata (the luminous Sonia Braga), who is still bitter over Robert leaving her and getting involved with the much younger, airhead yoga instructor Harriet (D’Arcy Carden).
- Oh, and at her father’s insistence, Darcy has invited her dashing, globe-trotting, unbearably self-centered ex-fiancé Sean (Lenny Kravitz), never believing he’d actually show up — but show up he does, making a typically splashy entrance in a private helicopter.
After an extended rehearsal dinner sequence that lets us know we’re in for half-baked humor, Darcy and Tom get into a big row on the morning of the wedding and find themselves on one side of the island — just as mask-wearing pirates storm the wedding compound, take everyone hostage and demand that Robert pay a hefty ransom. This is when Darcy and Tom suddenly become action heroes, even as the bickering continues, with Darcy complaining that Tom was so hyper-focused on being a “groomzilla” that he forgot about Darcy’s needs, and Tom griping that Darcy is once again finding an excuse to avoid commitment because of daddy issues or something.
Lopez and Duhamel make for a great-looking couple, but they don’t have the most sizzling chemistry onscreen, with Lopez playing nearly every scene in the broadest fashion possible, while the likable Duhamel, veteran of rom-coms such as “Life As We Know It” and “When in Rome,” comes across as being as restless with developments as we are. At times, it’s painfully obvious they’re in front of green screens; on other occasions, it’s even more obvious they’re in their respective trailers or hotel rooms while the stunt performers take over. “Mission: Impossible” this ain’t.
As for the supporting players: Sonia Braga is criminally underused, Lenny Kravitz is a wooden and unconvincing heel, Cheech Marin is wasted playing a money-obsessed stiff, and there’s just not enough Jennifer Coolidge to save the day, though one can’t help but smile when Coolidge’s Carol tells the pirates she was her hometown’s “top Realtor in 1998 and again in 2007.” I think I might rather see a movie about Carol’s adventures through the years than “Die Hard at a Destination Wedding.”