The list of reasons why Jennifer Lopez’s “Shotgun Wedding” should stink is considerable.
The project has been kicking around for some time, with name actors (Ryan Reynolds, Armie Hammer) flirting with the script before Josh Duhamel came aboard.
Hollywood is still unsure how to make an old-school rom-com these days, although recent films like “Ticket to Paradise” and “I Want You Back” suggest the genre is ripe for a comeback.
And the story’s plot, a wedding ceremony gets hijacked by terrorists, reeks of flop sweat.
“Shotgun Wedding” bullies past all of the above, proving the rom-com template can survive almost anything. It helps to have Stifler’s mom, scene-stealer Jennifer Coolidge, on hand.
Lopez and Duhamel star as Darcy and Tom, lovebirds gathering in the Philippines for their big wedding. He’s a control freak, organizing every last detail of the wedding. She’s busy keeping the peace between her squabbling parents.
Their big day is interrupted by machine gun-wielding terrorists eager to snag some cash from Darcy’s rich Dad (Cheech Marin).
Can this marriage actually happen? Will the wedding party live to see tomorrow?
The “dumb” factor sinks more than a few fluffy rom-coms. “Shotgun Wedding” avoids that fate early on. The laughs are gentle, the bond between Darcy and Tom feels real enough and the supporting players add warmth and personality.
Sonia Braga seethes as Darcy’s mom, still bitter over her ex shacking up with a much younger woman (D’Arcy Carden). Tom’s daffy mom (Coolidge) gets every social cue wrong, as only the “White Lotus” star can.
And then there’s Sean (Lenny Kravitz), Darcy’s handsome ex whose presence gets on Tom’s last nerve. Can you blame him?
It’s an overstuffed recipe for romance and danger, and the film packs plenty of the latter. These terrorists mean business … until they don’t. The film can’t push the danger element too much, lest it breaks free from the rom-com template.
That means this “Wedding” has a tonal problem, and it never fully resolves itself. One minute we’re chortling at Coolidge saying something silly, the next the couple in question is dodging machine gun fire.
Harry and Sally never had to duck and cover during their screen romance.
View this post on Instagram
Director Jason Moore of “Pitch Perfect” fame handles the various elements as best as anyone could. The action beats are surprisingly taut, and Moore never steps on a laugh along the way.
Lopez and Duhamel aren’t a classic screen couple, but their bickering has a purpose. Marriage is hard, and commitment means making yourself as vulnerable as possible.
That’s scary by itself, let alone knowing a team of terrorists is lurking around the corner.
Duhamel’s career is no match for what Lopez has built over the years, but the actor’s good looks distract from his casual charm. He’s perfect for breezy rom-coms, but Hollywood hasn’t given him projects worthy of his skill set.
His work in 2004’s “Win a Date with Ted Hamilton!” should have opened that door long ago.
Duhamel’s presence, and a woke-free story, make “Shotgun Wedding” a flawed but frivolous date night alternative.
HiT or Miss: “Shotgun Wedding” should be a mess, but the charismatic leads and a dollop of sly cracks from Jennifer Coolidge keep the rom-com on track.