An Action Comedy with Cold Feet

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Jason Moore’s Shotgun Wedding is a throwback to the heyday of Die Hard imitators. Here, it’s Die Hard at a wedding—an action comedy that one could easily imagine starring Geena Davis and Bruce Willis if it’d entered production three decades ago. But while Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel acquit themselves charmingly enough as a couple having second thoughts about getting married moments before the ceremony, Shotgun Wedding leaves one wishing that its action were as hard-hitting or confidently staged as Jan de Bont’s Speed and that the couple’s ripostes at least approximated the wit of a Moonlighting script.

Perhaps we’re just too far removed from the golden era of the screwball comedy for this subgenre to even offer the same types of pleasure as earlier action rom-coms. Shotgun Wedding would seem to have taken its inspiration from the world of video games, given its emphatically prosaic staging and exposition-heavy dialogue. Its tropical island setting and eminently disposable AK-wielding pirates places it in closer proximity to Far Cry than to Cutthroat Island. At one point, the would-be groom, Tom (Duhamel), even explains to his bride-to-be, Darcy (Lopez), that he knows how grenades work “from video games.” His shrug as he delivers this line makes the moment serve as a suitable emblem of the film as a whole.

The film opens in the lead-up to the couple’s rehearsal dinner, with Darcy conducting the fraught mediations between the various guests at her destination wedding in the Philippines on her own, as Tom is off arranging a surprise for her: festooning a boat with “Just Married” decorations. Darcy’s divorced parents, Renata (Sonia Braga) and Robert (Cheech Marin), greet each other with barely subdued resentment, positioning Darcy as their go-between. And just as the familial squabbling is about to reach a fever pitch, Tom’s very WASPy parents, Carole (Jennifer Coolidge) and Larry (Steve Coulter), arrive on the scene.

The daft matriarch that is by now Coolidge’s stock in trade, along with Coulter’s embodiment of a vacuously affable dad, introduces a comic cross-cultural tension between the families that Shotgun Wedding mercifully avoids overplaying. And whatever awkward disruption their arrival introduces is nothing compared to that of Sean (Lenny Kravitz), Darcy’s gorgeous and charismatic ex-boyfriend, who arrives at the rehearsal dinner in a helicopter paid for by Robert, somewhat understandably exacerbating the burgeoning rift between Tom and Darcy.

From here, the story switches into action mode as pirates take the entire wedding party hostage, all while the oblivious bride and groom are hashing out their differences in their suite. Which means, per the dictates of many an action comedy before Shotgun Wedding, that the clumsy Tom and the blood-shy Darcy must rise to the occasion and save their guests, and maybe along the way find that killing pirates can substitute for effective couples’ counseling.

As the pair goes about fulfilling their seemingly preordained life-saving duties, they level up with every enemy encounter, and with the ease of someone speed-running a stealth game on easy mode. Individual moments along the way are fun enough, as in Darcy dropping a grenade onto a pair of baddies from a zip line. But nothing here really coheres into a meaningful whole. A scene where Darcy’s wedding dress is torn to shreds, leaving her standing and panting in a power pose with a shotgun in her hand, is a case in point. Looking on from roughly the camera’s point of view, Tom seems impressed, but the arc of Darcy’s character has been so abrupt that the image of her achieving action-heroine status has little narrative ballast.

It won’t come as a surprise to say that the film’s standout is Coolidge, given how consistently and ludicrously unaware Carol is of the stakes of any given situation. But one can say the same thing about Shotgun Wedding that Darcy augurs of her nuptials early on in the film: that “something doesn’t feel right” about it. It’s hardly kinetic enough to qualify as an action movie, while the toothless dialogue and lack of chemistry between the two leads means that it’s only a rom-com by virtue of its marketing. The film has a rather perfunctory feel, as if it were unwilling to go all in on its ludicrous concept. Which is to say, it shares its main characters’ cold feet.

Score: 

 Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Coolidge, Sonia Braga, Cheech Marin, Lenny Kravitz, D’Arcy Carden, Callie Hernandez, Desmin Borges, Steve Coulter, Melissa Hunter, Alberto Isaac, Selena Tan  Director: Jason Moore  Screenwriter: Mark Hammer  Distributor: Amazon Studios  Running Time: 100 min  Rating: R  Year: 2023



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