If there’s one type of movie that hasn’t roared back theatrically after the pandemic, it’s the romantic comedy.
For every The Lost City that surprises at the box office, there seem to be a half-dozen or more rom-coms that only find success on streaming platforms like Marry Me, Ticket to Paradise or I Want You Back.
In a continuation of this trend, Lionsgate sold off the rights to its Jennifer Lopez produced tropical getaway film, Shotgun Wedding, which released to little fanfare this weekend on Amazon Prime Video.
Director Jason Moore – known for the original Pitch Perfect film and the much less successful Tina Fey-Amy Poehler comedy Sisters – takes the helm for a blend of action adventure and 2000s romantic comedy.
Shotgun Wedding finds Darcy and Tom bringing their quirky families together for a destination wedding on a remote island in the Philippines only to have the bridal party taken hostage by pirates and leaving the bride and groom to rescue them and save the day.
Without question, Lopez is the primary reason for audiences to give Shotgun Wedding a chance and her turn as Darcy accentuates all the charm and sass that Lopez is known for bringing to her rom-com characters. While the overall film is much more of an ensemble piece and other actors are given better lines in an uneven screenplay from writer Mark Hammer, Darcy is unquestionably the centerpiece of the film structurally and scenes without Lopez being the audience surrogate simply don’t work nearly as well.
Part of the reason for the disconnect is that the other half of the film requires audiences to try and connect with Josh Duhamel’s largely bland, uninteresting Tom.
The script asks Tom to be a “groom-zilla,” obsessed with putting on the perfect ceremony for Darcy and Duhamel simply doesn’t have the affability or comedic chops required to convincingly make an unlikeable character likeable.
It’s somewhat softened, though, by the even more strange presence of Lenny Kravitz as Darcy’s ex-fiance Sean, attempting to pull off a free-spirited vibe reminiscent of Russell Brand in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but Kravitz is far stiffer with dialogue and comic timing.
Strange casting for the two main male leads is especially confusing given how strong comedically the larger ensemble cast is from top to bottom.
White Lotus and American Pie star Jennifer Coolidge is a constant scene stealer as Tom’s outrageous, overbearing mother Carol, while comic legend Cheech Marin handles more dry humor well as Darcy’s rich, distant father Robert and The Good Place alum D’Arcy Carden is richly annoying as Robert’s much younger girlfriend Harriet.
Structurally, the film really drags in the opening act establishing characters and it isn’t until Tom and Darcy are on the run when Shotgun Wedding picks up any speed or positive momentum.
The action set pieces aren’t quite on the level of the John Wick films, but Moore and his stunt team lean into the more comedic elements of combat while maintaining a decent amount of violence worthy of the film’s R-rating.
With more explosions and mother-in-laws expertly handling automatic weapons than the typical romantic comedy, Shotgun Wedding certainly won’t make any cinephiles best of 2023 list, but could fit nicely into plans for a Valentine’s date at home.