J. Lo Wedding Action-Comedy Is An Interminable Slog

Jan 26, 2023

Action-comedy “Shotgun Wedding,” Jennifer Lopez’s latest star vehicle, comes almost exactly a year after her other recent wedding-set romance “Marry Me”. In both films, Lopez portrays women finding their true love a bit late in life, yet like a modern Doris Day, the characters she plays are implied to be nearly 15 years younger than she actually is. As if a woman in her fifties couldn’t have these very experiences – something explicitly proven wrong by the star’s own personal life. However troubling this curious ageist trend in her filmography of late is, it’s the least of this film’s problems. 
READ MORE: ‘Shotgun Wedding’ Trailer: Jennifer Lopez & Josh Duhamel Fight For Their Lives After Their Wedding Is Taken Hostage
Lopez plays bride-to-be Darcy, whose only character trait is that her parents, multi-millionaire Robert (Cheech Marin) and moody Brazilian with self-described “beautiful hair” Renata (Sonia Braga), are divorced. She also has a younger sister named Jamie ( Callie Hernandez, “The Flight Attendant”) who only exists to be the cliched bridesmaid who shows up late the day of the wedding because they’ve just had sex with someone they shouldn’t have. These supposed sisters get maybe two scenes together and have absolutely no familial chemistry with each other, or with the legends playing their parents. 
Darcy’s Etsy-obsessed husband-to-be Tom (Josh Duhamel, who replaced Armie Hammer after he was accused of abuse and cannibalism by various women) has insisted on giving Darcy what he thinks is the island wedding of her dreams — without taking any of her dad’s money. Somehow they’re still able to afford a private island in the Philippines, even if Tom has to make romantic fairy-light laden pineapple centerpieces himself. We’re also told Tom is a minor league baseball player whose contract was recently not renewed; a tidbit added it seems solely so that he can later hit a hand grenade like a baseball in the film’s preposterous finale. A moment that is, like most in this film, set up well but executed so poorly that its emotional resonance is practically non-existent. 
Of course, while the two bicker on the morning of their wedding day over the many feelings and insecurities they’ve never shared with each other, their wedding party and guests are taken hostage by pirates who are after Robert’s vast fortune. Among the hostages are Tom’s overly midwestern mother Carol (Jennifer Coolidge, again stuck in a role that fetishizes her Mae West style of comedy rather than leverages it), Darcy’s ex-Sean (Lenny Kravitz, who is somehow zapped of all his charm and charisma), Tom’s playboy best friend Ricky (Desmin Borges, once the best things on the FX show “You’re The Worst,” here completely under-written and under-used), and Robert’s new-agey young girlfriend Harriet (D’Arcy Carden, whose comedy was so sharp on “The Good Place,” but whose choice in film roles is becoming questionable).
Director Jason Moore (“Pitch Perfect”) does not have a hold of this material or his cast. Despite its stacked ensemble, the characters are paper-thin and there is no sense of who anyone else is in relation to each other aside from what we’re told via the dialogue in the script from Mark Hammer (“Two Night Stand”). Moore never holds long enough on any cast members for them to add nuance through glances or body language. On top of that, neither Moore nor Hammer are able to find a balance between the various comedy styles at play, mixing screwball patter, deadpan one-liners, and physical slapstick without any rhyme or reason. 
It’s as if the script started as set pieces first and then the characters were crafted around the star personas/schitcks of the various actors. The cohesion is not helped by Doc Crotzer (“Chaos Walking”), whose haphazard editing leaves the action sequences without any sense of rhythm or grace. The result is a film that feels every bit manufactured, with a heightened artificiality it just cannot manage to shake off. 
Cinematographer Peter Deming is capable of creating cinematic dreams when working with a director like David Lynch, whose works “Lost Highway,” “Mulholland Drive” and “Twin Peaks: The Return” were lensed by Deming. Yet here, there is no visual cohesion. The action sequences have no verve. There’s no beauty to the framing of any given moment. Deming’s visuals pale even in comparison to other recent island-set popcorn fare such as “The Lost City” or “Destination Wedding”. Along with gorgeous visuals, these films also benefited from bonafide chemistry between the leads, competently directed ensemble players, and set pieces that were actually memorable. 
Unfortunately, memorable moments are few and far between here, and those are mostly spoiled by the film’s trailer. Like late in the film when Coolidge grabs one of the titular shotguns and opens fire on her captors in extreme slow-motion. Or when Lopez, also wielding a shotgun, demands an apology from her parents for how terribly they’ve treated her fiancé over the years. If this kind of playful subversion of wedding day angst were employed more successfully throughout “Shotgun Wedding,” the film might have been the event of the season, rather than the interminable slog it is.  [D]

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