Following a decade’s worth of drought, audiences begging for more rom-coms means that not all of the resulting films will be winners. After all, the deluge of the ‘90s didn’t just bring us classics like Four Weddings and a Funeral, While You Were Sleeping, and You’ve Got Mail. We also endured Forces of Nature, Home Fries, and Mr. Wrong. Now that we’re starting to see movies like these made again, they can’t all be Palm Springs, The Lost City, or even the perfectly palatable Marry Me. (Fight me.) Amazon Prime’s Shotgun Wedding isn’t the worst rom-com ever made, but it’s the type of generically terrible offering that serves as a reminder of why my beloved genre fell out of fashion — a fate that Jennifer Lopez herself may be partially responsible for.
The Shotgun Wedding star never became the genre queen on the level of Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, or Meg Ryan, but it hasn’t been for lack of trying. Gigli, Maid in Manhattan, The Wedding Planner, Monster-in-Law, and The Back-up Plan have all cemented her as a fixture of a certain type of rom-com that’s somehow devoid of both romance and comedy, despite her gifts as an actress proven in Out of Sight and Hustlers. The scripts of these lesser movies were certainly to blame, but she also was poorly matched with most of her co-stars, who were rarely on her level as a performer or didn’t display the chemistry required. (Apologies to Michael Vartan and Alex O’Loughlin, I guess.)
Shotgun Wedding feels like more of the same problem. I liked the so-weird-it-works pairing of Lopez and Owen Wilson in last year’s charming-enough Marry Me, but coupling her with Josh Duhamel in this action-driven comedy is another mismatch of leads. Shotgun Wedding begins where other rom-coms end, dropping us into the action on the night before the destination wedding of Darcy (Lopez) and Tom (Duhamel) in the Philippines (the Dominican Republic). There’s tension and awkwardness between the bride and groom and their respective soon-to-be-in-laws, and the arrival of her ex (Lenny Kravitz) further complicates matters. Soon, Darcy and Tom are ready to call off the wedding, but the proceedings have hit a hitch anyway: pirates have arrived on the island, asking for a ransom from Darcy’s millionaire dad (Cheech Marin). While the pirates have corralled the rest of the guests in an infinity pool (naturally), it’s up to Darcy and Tom to fight back and fight for their relationship or something.
We have no sense of who Tom — and especially Darcy — are, either together or as individuals. Your career shouldn’t define you, but there’s little indication of what Darcy does or cares about when she isn’t getting married on a beautiful island in the Philippines. (Other than looking good without pants, which Shotgun Wedding, of course, dwells on.) Meanwhile, Tom’s work as a failed minor league ball player is a running gag that all culminates in the film’s limp finale. A romantic comedy that pays little attention to the central relationship results in no investment in its couple. With Mark Hammer’s script beginning at the wedding, there’s no evidence why these two people should be together or should get married. Lopez and Duhamel just don’t have the chemistry that makes us root for them. When wedding stress inevitably gets to them, the reaction from the audience is a shrug.
Tom and Darcy’s rocky road to the altar invites inevitable comparison to the film’s production. Producer Ryan Reynolds was initially attached to star a few years ago, but he was replaced by Armie Hammer, who, uhh, clearly is not on screen here for obvious reasons. The jokes about Tom being in the minor league extends to Duhamel, who just isn’t at the same level as Lopez. The script does him few favors, but the bland Duhamel adds little to what was on the page.
Pitch Perfect’s Jason Moore directs, but he provides none of the energy to Shotgun Wedding that made his feature debut a hit. In a nod to that film, all the wedding guests join in for an a cappella wedding standard Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be,” but it does little other than illuminate how dumb the song’s lyrics are and how maybe they’re not the best fit for a wedding. A lot of that 2012 comedy’s success was due to the smart casting of its secondary characters, and there’s some of that here. Jennifer Coolidge plays Tom’s ditsy, daffy mother, and she gets some of the film’s few laughs because she’s Jennifer Coolidge, not because the script earns it. As Darcy’s mother, Sonia Braga is predictably commanding, but she isn’t given a ton to do. Actors who’ve done ace supporting work in other roles — The Good Place’s D’Arcy Carden and You’re the Worst’s Desmin Borges — get even less to work with, and it’s unclear why you’d cast such talented, funny people and saddle them with such unfunny lines.
Netflix was the de facto home for rom-coms during their theatrical hiatus, and while I’ve clamored for more of these movies to get bigger releases, Amazon Prime and its shitty user interface feels like a more appropriate place to half-watch this particular kind of romantic comedy. Shotgun Wedding harkens back to the days of catching not-great films in the genre on a Saturday afternoon on TBS, but this demonstrates that maybe it’s good that that time has passed.
“Shotgun Wedding” streams Friday on Amazon Prime Video.