The “action-comedy” has been so degraded as a genre that it’s a struggle to remember there ever being a good one. There are great action movies that are very funny, great comedies that have some action in them, but these days “action-comedy” mostly denotes a hyper-specific niche of half-baked action movie concept with one or two big movie stars sort of bullshitting their way through the dead spots.
As the latest entry into this dubious oeuvre comes Shotgun Wedding, streaming on Amazon Prime this weekend, starring Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel as a couple whose destination wedding in the Philippines gets invaded by pirates. Sheesh, did the Philippines stiff their last PR firm or something? Between this and Plane, “the Philippines is a lawless hub of global piracy” is really having a moment. (As is the “destination wedding nightmare,” as also seen in Hulu’s The Drop).
Anyway, Shotgun Wedding is a lot like its peers in the genre. Knight and Day, The Tourist, Snatched — chances are you’ve had the misfortune of sitting through a movie like this in the past 10 or 15 years, even if you forgot about it the second your foot hit the first step of pavement outside the theater. The thing about movies like Die Hard or Lethal Weapon 2, or even The Last Boy Scout or The Long Kiss Goodnight was that they were functional action scripts, that occasionally allowed for some levity to break through based on the fact that the characters were regular humans (albeit clever ones).
The way this kind of neo-action-comedy seems to work, by contrast, is that whenever writing a rom-com starts to get hard, you throw in a few action movie tropes, and whenever the action stuff gets hard to write, you throw in a few jokes. There are rarely any well-constructed jokes or well-conceived action, just the equivalent of two writing crutches leaned against each other forming a sort of teepee.
Shotgun Wedding is more of a pitch deck with a tagline (“’Til Death Do Us Part” takes on a whole new meaning in this hilarious, adrenaline-fueled adventure as Darcy and Tom must save their loved ones—if they don’t kill each other first!”) than anything resembling a movie. Honestly, if you’re experiencing anything close to “adrenaline” while watching Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Lopez’s dull, banal bickering in Shotgun Wedding you’re probably an Amish on Rumspringa, thrilled at your first encounter with electricity and moving images.
Let’s see… Jennifer Lopez plays Darcy and Josh Duhamel Tom. They’re trying to plan a wedding without the help of Darcy’s rich father, played by Cheech Marin, which leads to them being sort of frazzled. Which is only exacerbated by Tom’s overbearing mother — Jennifer Coolidge — and the surprise appearance of Darcy’s fabulously rich playboy ex-fiancée played by Lenny Kravitz. There’s also Callie Hernandez as Darcy’s doesn’t-really-look-like-her sister and Sonia Braga as her caustic mother. Hey, great cast! Sadly they mostly just get to stand around while arguably the least two comedically capable of the group (Lopez and Duhamel, admittedly both very easy on the eyes) run around having cockamamie adventures while trying to rescue their families from not-very-convincing pirates (one guy has a mask that looks like a sea urchin! neat!).
Did I mention Josh Duhamel’s character is a recently-retired ex-minor league designated hitter? That fact comes into play once or twice. Jennifer Lopez is clearly trying to get into Sandra Bullock mode here, and she’s not terrible, but it doesn’t suit her nearly so well as when she plays tough girl with a secretly soft side (Out Of Sight) or owns her natural, effortless command of her own sex appeal (Hustlers). I’m not really buying this woman as a kooky rom-com heroine, sorry. Josh Duhamel continues being Josh Duhamel.
Aside from a few inspired casting choices (Lenny Kravitz! How about that!) Shotgun Wedding is more a poster that’s been asked to stretch than a movie, a passive watch for audiences who enjoy seeing celebrities. This sort of thing didn’t really work with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, nor did it work with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, or with Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn, so why would it work with Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel? An action movie that doesn’t take any of the action seriously is not the same thing as an “action-comedy” any more than two famous people bickering is automatically comedic.