Producers: Todd Lieberman, David Hoberman, Alexander Young, Jennifer Lopez, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and Benny Medina Director: Jason Moore Screenplay: Mark Hammer Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Coolidge, Sônia Braga, Cheech Marin, Selena Tan, Alberto Isaac, D’Arcy Carden, Callie Hernandez, Desmin Borges, Steve Coulter, Melissa Hunter, Alberto Isaac, Selena Tan and Lenny Kravitz Distributor: Amazon Studios/Prime Video
You’d be well advised to send regrets to Amazon’s invitation to the destination wedding depicted in this Jennifer Lopez vehicle, in which even she is far from her best. Despite a promising cast, “Shotgun Wedding” is sadly true to its title—it’s a dud action-comedy-romance that misfires on all three counts.
Darcy Rivera (Lopez) is set to marry Tom Fowler (Josh Duhamel), a has-been minor league baseball player, at a festive ceremony in the Philippines he’s arranged for her. They’ll be joined by scores of family and friends, including his yokel parents Carol (Jennifer Coolidge) and Larry Steve Coulter), her rich father Robert (Cheech Marin), his haughty ex-wife Renata Ortiz (Sônia Braga) and Robert’s current, much younger girlfriend Harriet (D’Arcy Carden). Robert has been thoughtless enough to bring along Sean (Lenny Kravitz), his smooth-as-silk business lieutenant who’s also Darcy’s former boyfriend. Also along for the ride are Tom’s doofus best friend Ricky (Desmin Borges) and Darcy’s sister Jamie (Callie Hernandez), along with a host of others.
The soon-to-be wed couple are already a bickering pair—he’s consumed with the wedding arrangements, she’s having second thoughts—when their petty concerns are reduced to trivialities when the group is attacked by a bunch of pirates, who take everyone hostage and demand a huge ransom from Robert. But Darcy and Tom, though their wrists are bound together, escape into the jungle; they try to stay alive as pirates pursue them, and aim to rescue the others even while continuing their arguing.
Interrupting the duo’s running through the wilderness and rappelling down conveniently situated ropes, a few prolonged fistfights, the gradual shredding of the bridal gown and jokes about grenades (Lopez is forced to keep clutching one to keep it from exploding) are scenes back at the wedding venue, where the hostage guests jabber and reveal bits of their own backstories. Special attention is given to Coolidge, whose current renaissance will not be enhanced by her customarily broad turn as an overbearing but nonetheless lovable momma who winds up leading a group sing-along to the sentimental song “I’ll Be” before hoisting an automatic rifle and letting rip. Darcy shows up with a rifle too, but only after Tom has come back and uncovered the true villainy behind the pirate assault. She also collaborates with Tom in another bit with a grenade that makes little sense but serves the audience’s lust for escalation.
And even that won’t suffice. Writer Mike Hammer and director Jason Moore concoct an elaborate action finale involving a speedboat, a parasail and a helicopter—along with guns—that aims to be thrilling but just misses the mark.
“Shotgun Wedding” has some good elements, but they simply don’t amount to a satisfying whole. Lopez and Duhamel lack the chemistry that would make them a pair you can root for; she, in particular, plays things too harshly, missing the charm she’s brought to some roles in the past. And though Coolidge uses her brash brand of humor to the fullest and Braga’s hauteur is amusing enough, many of the other supporting players are just bland: Borges and Hernandez, for example, are assigned a familiar subplot as an ill-matched secondary couple, but they too lack chemistry, with Borges frankly an irritant. On the other hand, Kravitz makes the most of the sleazy but charismatic ex-boyfriend.
The picture is fairly nice to look at, with Page Buckner’s production design and Mitchell Travers’ costumes fine and cinematographer Peter Deming using the location in the Dominican Republic, standing in for the Philippines, to good effect. But editor Doc Crotzer can’t do much to ameliorate the sense of repetitiveness, and Pinar Toprak’s score relies on predictable beats.
This “Wedding” really comes alive only at the very close, in a music-video-like celebration over the closing credits, in which the actors wing it joyfully. Would that what preceded had captured some of the same exuberance. Instead what we’ve gotten is mostly desperation.