Film Review – Shotgun Wedding
Shotgun Wedding (2022) contains enough screwball antics to forgive its ridiculous story. It blends both romantic and action comedy genres, going through the hijinks of both, and having fun doing so. The characters are bit too wacky to be believable – frankly, most of the actors are too old to be playing such immature people. And yet, their commitment to the bit keeps things rolling along at an even clip. At the very least, I was never bored. I’m not here to tell you that this is going to revitalize the romantic comedy or the buddy action film, but it is a nice surprise. The film knows it’s pure fluff and embraces that fact with full conviction.
This is the kind of material Jennifer Lopez lived in once upon a time. The Wedding Planner (2001) and Maid in Manhattan (2002) solidified her superstardom. Shotgun Wedding, along with last year’s Marry Me (2022), sees her dipping back into that well, and she does so with ease. She plays Darcy, who – along with fiancé Tom (Josh Duhamel) – have dragged their loved ones to a remote island in The Philippines to celebrate their nuptials. Right off the bat, things are going haywire. Where Darcy wanted a low-key, non-traditional ceremony, Tom is stressed out making sure every tiny detail is perfect. Things don’t get easy once their crazy families arrive, including Tom’s parents (Steve Coulter, Jennifer Coolidge), Darcy’s parents (Cheech Marin, Sonia Braga), and Darcy’s ex (Lenny Kravitz) who shows up unexpectedly.
The writing (Mark Hammer) and direction (Jason Moore) structure the first act with the familiar beats of a rom com. Darcy’s cold feet, Tom’s anxieties, and the interfamilial tensions all put the ceremony at risk. Things only get worse when a group of masked pirates invade the island, taking the guests as hostages and forcing Darcy and Tom to work together to fight them off. The narrative switches to an action comedy, with an unexpected amount of violence and bloodshed. Will Tom and Darcy survive going up against the pirates, and – more importantly – will the two survive each other?
This is straight out of the screwball comedy manual. If this were the 1930s or ‘40s, we could see this film starring the likes of Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, albeit without the blood and naughty language. Hammer’s writing and Moore’s direction works in the spirit of that era. Realism and coherency were never part of the plan. The story takes place in the world of escapist movies, where none of this stuff is supposed to make any sense. The only thing we are meant to believe is the chemistry between the characters, and in that regard Shotgun Wedding works. Both Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel are charming in their respective parts – willing to be sexy and sweet in one scene and at each other’s throats in the next. The one point of real emotion involves how difficult relationships are, and how much effort goes into making a successful one. The fact that Darcy and Tom go through the ups and downs of their wedding while dodging bullets and explosions is just icing on the (wedding) cake.
But the film doesn’t just rely on Lopez and Duhamel. Moore (along with Peter Deming’s cinematography and Doc Crotzer’s editing) inserts clever visual bits to keep things interesting. The pirates corral the guests into the resort’s swimming pool and staple the place cards to their clothes to keep track of everyone. There’s also a running gag featuring Darcy’s wedding dress. At first, Darcy hates the fluffy extravagance of it, but once the action turns up, it slowly tears and shreds to become a warrior’s outfit. The gag is punctuated by a hilariously over the top image of Darcy – wielding a shotgun and knife – looking like a poster for an entirely different movie. And the climactic set piece, featuring nothing less than a helicopter chase, is so exaggerated it that could have come out of a James Bond spy thriller.
When the key image of the advertising has Jennifer Coolidge firing an assault rifle in slow motion (ala Rambo), you know what you are getting into. Everyone is a little bonkers here, but that’s to the film’s benefit. Yes, the twists and turns are nonsense, and the pirates take the phrase “faceless villains” to a whole different level. The supporting characters are underused – especially Cheech Marin and Sonia Braga. The two make the most of their limited opportunities, making us wish they were more involved in the central action. And the ending has the tidiness of a sitcom, where all the problems and issues disappear as the credits roll. The real-life trauma of being held hostage by bad guys is not something the narrative is concerned about.
All those issues are valid, and yet Shotgun Wedding is such an absurd experience that it doesn’t even matter. It has a blast being goofy and doesn’t pretend to be something that it is not. This is one of those instances of a movie achieving exactly what it promises. Does it reach the highs of the romantic/action comedy of say, True Lies (1994)? Not even close. But does it offer a few hours of entertaining distraction? Absolutely.