As an introduction, Shotgun Wedding sounds like a fun time. A couple’s intimate destination wedding at a Philippine resort, with their family and friends, is turned upside down when pirates hijack the entire affair. See what they do to save their love and loved ones! Unfortunately, all that rom-com potential, and the charming star power of Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel, is neglected by an infuriating script that pits the couple against each other and wastes the comedic talents of nearly the entire cast. Essentially reduced to simply looking hot (and not afraid to flaunt their assets on camera), Lopez and Duhamel’s comedic wings have really been clipped here.
Shotgun Wedding starts off well, taking us to Darcy (Lopez) and Tom (Duhamel)’s rehearsal dinner held at a small resort on Mahal Island in the Philippines. Together for four years, the couple is finally wed after Tom retires from professional baseball due to advancing age and declining skill. Thus, he casts himself into a detestable “boyfriendzilla” role trying to plan the perfect wedding for Darcy, who just wanted to elope. But they’ve gathered their parents, siblings, and close friends to “celebrate” together in a destination wedding that’s fraught with tense family dynamics.
To make matters worse, Darcy’s wealthy father Robert (Cheech Marin) invites Darcy’s philanthropist ex-sexy, Sean (Lenny Kravitz) to the wedding. Kravitz makes a great choice to flaunt his sexuality in a modest way that raises Tom’s insecurity to new heights. He throws the couple into a spiral of conflict leading up to the wedding, so much so that the couple argue at pre-nup meetings about how the wedding itself has put them at odds. Adding to all this “fun” is the bizarre kidnapping of the resort and wedding guests by pirates. Due to their earlier private screaming match, Darcy and Tom manage to prevent the group kidnapping and a game of cat and mouse ensues.
One might expect Darcy and Tom to suddenly find themselves thrown into situations of oversized but hilarious heroes trying to save each other and their loved ones. The action part happens, but the “fun” is replaced with the pair relentlessly fighting every step of the way as they try to outwit the pirates trying to capture them. With that kind of sustained level of agitation taking aim at one another, frankly, the pirates have no room to be anything other than weaponized plot devices. They function to be accidentally picked up by the couple, sometimes excessively gruesome for this type of film, when their paths cross in the jungle, on the beach, and within the resort.
Perhaps screenwriter Mark Hammer overestimated how much anyone aside from sadists could enjoy watching two people who are supposed to be in love annoy each other furiously for 100 minutes, but it certainly doesn’t help those of us trying to cheer each other up. Darcy and Tom. Their journey becomes a series of side sessions of mini therapy sessions at inopportune times for them to analyze why they are so angry/fearful/ambivalent about getting married or remembering why they love each other. Who signed up for the front row seats to couples counseling with their hilarious and exotic rom-com? Any?
Director Jason Moore (Perfect tone) has shown that he can put together funny movies, but there’s hardly any comedy here. The ensemble full of great comedian/actors, like D’Arcy Carden (The Good Place), Desmin Borges (You’re the Worst), Sonia Braga and Marin, have nothing but basic clichés to play. Only Kravitz and Jennifer Coolidge, as Tom’s Midwestern mother Carol, manage to get something out of the scarcity they’re given. He blesses Coolidge by squealing, “Check all the ditches!” for at least giving me a big laugh.
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Moore is also out of his league with the staging of dynamic action scenes. Yes, Lopez cuts a stunning figure in a frayed dress as he holds a gun, but there are no scenes that live up to that classic spy movie image. She has more wasted potential, as scenes that could have put her front and center to save the day turn into big monologues that get maudlin or just plain silly, with no reward of live action. In a better movie with a clever script, Lopez and Duhamel really could have sold this premise. If you’re looking for a better version of a warring couple running from assassins in the jungle, Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum essentially did the same thing with much better results in The lost City (2022). Shotgun Wedding is an idea that deserved a much better execution, not only because of its cast, but also because of its audience.
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