Jennifer Lopez has long been on record as a lifelong romantic, and in the last year — with weddings both on and offscreen — she’s proven it. But sometimes, it’s ok to say “I don’t.”
“Shotgun Wedding” was proposed so long ago that Lopez has been matched with three different partners: Her first costar was Ryan Reynolds, who dropped out and now remains solely as an executive producer. He was replaced by Armie Hammer, whose personal controversies soon sent him in an entirely different direction (if rumors are accurate, Caribbean timeshare sales). Somehow Josh Duhamel caught the bouquet, leaving him with the thankless role of Tom, a “groomzilla” who pays more attention to his pineapple centerpieces than to his fed-up fiancée, Darcy (Lopez).
There is no need for any screenwriter to rehash lazy wedzilla tropes ever again, regardless of gender. But Tom’s stress is at least a little understandable, with two demanding families sharing space at the remote Philippines resort he chose for their destination wedding. We can see, right from the rehearsal dinner, that tensions are high.
Darcy’s sophisticated mother, Renata (a regal Sônia Braga), is simmering with anger at her tactless ex-husband (Cheech Marin) and his flaky girlfriend (D’Arcy Carden, Amazon’s “A League of Their Own”). Darcy’s antisocial sister (Callie Hernandez, “La La Land”) slept with the best man (Desmin Borges, “You’re the Worst”) as a lark, and now he’s in love. Tom’s mother Carol (Jennifer Coolidge) is a flighty disaster with boundary issues. And Darcy’s perfect ex-boyfriend Sean (Lenny Kravitz) has just shown up as a celebratory surprise.
The surprises, however, are only getting started. As the couple fight furiously before the main event, a group of local pirates rushes in and takes everyone else hostage. Once Tom and Darcy realize it’s up to them to save their loved ones, they’re finally forced to work together again.
At this point, it’s safe to assume that Lopez truly does love weddings. (This is the fourth movie she’s made that references marriage in the title.) And it is commendable that she stuck with the project once she’d signed on. But you can’t walk up the aisle with just anyone, and the loss of two leading men might have been a sign that this whole affair just wasn’t meant to be.
Despite the time they’ve had to get it right, neither director Jason Moore (“Pitch Perfect”) nor writer Mark Hammer (“Two Night Stand”) shares her fidelity. The story is perfunctory, the editing haphazard and the tone inconsistent. There’s too much violence for the escapist rom-com the dialogue suggests, and not enough adventure for the “Die Hard in Paradise” plotting.
On the bright side, the efforts of a destination wedding do demand a worthwhile vista, and location manager Boni Canto found one in ANI, the gorgeous Dominican Republic resort that stands in for the Philippines. Costume designer Mitchell Travers also deserves credit, for the creatively decomposing gown Lopez has to wear from seaside to jungle and back again.
Unfortunately, though, the leads — both of whom radiate individual charisma — are entirely lacking in chemistry. And it’s not just them. There is little connection between anyone, or even any event, in a project that takes all its assets for granted.
Braga is so striking one can only hope the movie will redeem itself by reminding other casting directors to call on her more often. And though the role is hardly a stretch, Coolidge almost single-handedly saves the day with her daffy delightfulness. But the rest of the cast is either oddly stiff, as if they haven’t been given specific direction (Kravitz), or awkwardly unfocused, because their characters weren’t clearly defined (almost everyone else).
Despite the unerring professionalism of the actors who play them, Tom and Darcy are equally underwritten and never feel like anything other than rom-com clichés thrown together to advance a plot. They have nothing significant in common, and no notable affection for each other. They’re just one more couple in one more action-comedy that will fill one more streaming slot. Here’s hoping Lopez’s next big commitment proves more worthy of her laudable loyalty.
“Shotgun Wedding” will release globally on Prime Video Jan. 27.