A destination wedding on a beautiful island in the Philippines. What could go wrong?
Apparently, a lot. When we first meet Darcy (Jennifer Lopez) and Tom (Josh Duhamel) in “Shotgun Wedding,” it’s the night before the big day. From the jump, you get the sense that things aren’t quite right.
It’s not just that the couple’s families don’t seem to get along. It’s not that Darcy’s dad Robert (Cheech Marin) seems to hate Tom, or that Robert’s new girlfriend Harriet (D’Arcy Carden) won’t stop “smiling” at his ex-wife Renata (Sônia Braga), or that Robert invited Darcy’s ex Sean (Lenny Kravitz) to join in the festivities. No, there’s something going on past your typical anxiety-inducing in-laws. Tom is wound tight as a drum, inadvertently creating catastrophe as he tries to make the evening run as smoothly as possible. Darcy, on the other hand, acts like she would quite literally rather be anywhere else.
Minutes before the wedding is about to start, these tensions come to a head. Darcy never wanted a big wedding, but Tom’s need to please his family and impress Darcy’s overshadowed that desire. An argument between the two escalates, and it seems like the wedding is off. It is – but not for the reason you think. While Darcy and Tom argue, a group of pirates infiltrate the wedding party and take them hostage – and it’s up to Darcy and Tom to save them.
“Shotgun Wedding” walks in the wake of romantic adventure films like “Romancing the Stone” and is one in a small wave of recent, similarly-shaded romantic comedies, like “The Lost City” and “Ticket to Paradise.” I was slightly disappointed in both of those films, but both did numbers at the box office, proving audiences still have a taste for this genre – location centric, packed with big stars and bigger antics, and a romance at the helm.
Knowing that – and seeing as it’s the best iteration of the three – it’s disappointing that “Shotgun Wedding” won’t see a big theatrical release (it hits Amazon Prime on Jan. 27). Directed by Jason Moore, “Shotgun Wedding” boasts a strong supporting cast and action set pieces that are just the sort of preposterous you want out of a movie like this. But the real draw is Lopez and Duhamel, whose odd-couple energy is delightfully daffy. The film cleverly riffs on their film personas, and delivers on action/comedy buffoonery with zeal.
The Lopez/Duhamel pairing feels plucked right out of the 2000s, when both were frequent romantic comedy leads in their own right (“The Wedding Planner” and “Win a Date With Tad Hamilton” are my favorites of that era). The throwback pairing reminds you why each actor was so compelling a romantic lead in the first place, but also casts them both against type, playing with your expectations. In particular, Duhamel’s rugged good looks have made him a good fit for the charming playboy type in the past, but here he’s all commitment and edgy neuroticism. The underlying charm is still there, but it’s channeled into humor rather than allure. Lopez, on the other hand, is left to play the smothered partner, unsure and anxious in a way she rarely gets to be.
Despite the worry between them and even amidst their arguing, Duhamel and Lopez feel at ease around each other, which is essential for us to believe that there’s a chance they can make it out of this mess. In their first scene together, Tom shows up late to the couple’s rehearsal dinner. He comes up behind Darcy and immediately grabs a drink off of a passing tray, placing it swiftly in her hand. Darcy, who has been surrounded by micromanaging in-laws up until this point, visibly relaxes as the two lean into each other. That inherent level of comfort is important – we need to believe they have hang-ups about this wedding, but not about each other.
“Shotgun Wedding” does more than riff on Lopez and Duhamel’s romantic comedy personas. The camera shoots the duo in your typically slick action hero manner, but the action itself is more slapstick than heroic. “They’re sick,” snarls one of the pirates as they search for Tom and Darcy, framing the two as diabolical masterminds. The camera paints them as fearless, slow motion sequences and car chases dominating the action. But Lopez and Duhamel are always stumbling their way through their hero moments, never making the correct decision on purpose and hanging on by the skin of their teeth. There’s one moment where Lopez gets the Ash in “Evil Dead II” treatment, ripping up her wedding dress and ripping out her extensions, cocking a gun as the camera shows off her new digs. But even after this turning point of sorts, the film never passes up an opportunity to remind you just how out of their league these two are.