Nobody knows the secret ingredients of a good marriage better than Jennifer Lopez. In 2022, Bennifer tied the knot! The triple threat dared to say the past 12 months were the “best year” for her! She is the only person who can save us, and certainly one of the only performers capable of spunkily wielding a shotgun in a wedding frock (without causing too much offense to fourth-wave feminism) for the otherwise frustratingly average “Shotgun Wedding”.
If we can spend a minute on the journey of her onscreen husband, the casting process went from Ryan Reynolds (undoubtedly funny) to Armie Hammer (undoubtedly abhorrent) to, just two weeks after Hammer dropped out in January 2021 after being accused of sexual abuse, Josh Duhamel: a poor guy just trying to get another job who suddenly had to fly out to the Dominican Republic with less than a month’s notice. He did his best.
The film, created with vim but occasionally flat humor by “Pitch Perfect” director Jason Moore, seesaws between dysfunctional family comedy, marital drama, haywire gonzo thriller, and fabulous showcase for the megawatt pop star. Lopez plays Darcy while Duhamel is her Tom: two almost-weds who bring together their headstrong families on an exotic island to celebrate their marriage. The only thing worse than the families meeting comes when pirates hold all the guests, minus the bride and groom, hostage.
It is the kind of mid-tier rom-com with a twist you’ll find at the peak of Lopez’s early-aughts box office success: a galvanizing stage for Lopez to introduce us to the most basic iteration of the “strong female character.” In one scene, Darcy rips up her bouffant wedding dress to reveal stomping combat boots where her dainty marital heels once were. Lopez is smart enough to offer genuine resourcefulness and emotion to such a trope, channelling just as much fun as the watery script allows.
The fact that Lopez is now, after all these years, legally Jennifer Affleck feels relevant to the merit of “Shotgun Wedding.” The film feels ripped from 2002, or 2003 if you like, which was the last time she and Ben Affleck were together, before rekindling their relationship in April 2021 – which was also when the film wrapped. Sure, there are other things ripe for discussion in “Shotgun Wedding” but Lopez is undoubtedly the best thing, and sometimes being gifted with a time capsule some 20 years later holds the greatest new thrill of all.
And speaking of time capsules, an inspired decision from Moore casts Jennifer Coolidge in the role of Tom’s mother Carol, calling back to Coolidge’s tried-and-tested triumph as an overbearing but not always abhorrent maternal figure. She is given the opening notes of an a cappella rendition of Edwin McCain’s 1998 power ballad “I’ll Be,” which you might remember from a key scene in the season one finale of “Dawson’s Creek” that same year. Or take four years later — as Lopez and Affleck were breaking off their then engagement — and Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray were slow-dancing to the song in “A Cinderella Story”: an aughts fairytale in which Coolidge plays wicked stepmother Fiona.
Coolidge is also a joy to watch off the back of her Golden Globe-winning turn as Tanya in the second season of Mike White’s satirical anthology series “The White Lotus”: machine gun in one hand (having had ample practice in the HBO hit), instantly memorable quips (“I’m a mother I can worry about a lot of things at the same time!”) and wisdom on longterm relationships and spicy sex lives, delivered without flinching. She’s given the same grace as Lopez. These women find ways to turn dated rom-com beats into something a little sharper and wittier, even if it’s never quite enough to escape the film’s ocean of clichés.
The men, meanwhile, flit between “Jackass”-level stunts and desperate attempts at some kind of emotional literacy, which by the end of the film really makes you wonder if heterosexuality was the scoundrel on the horizon all along. It’s calcified by an ageless Lenny Kravitz as bigwig music producer and Darcy’s ex-boyfriend Sean, who at one point mutters “I’m not a monster, I’m an entrepreneur” but its delivered a little too matter-of-factly to suggest any kind of intentional comedy. It is hard, of course, when you have to measure up opposite scene-stealing personalities like Lopez and Coolidge, as well as “The Good Place” standout D’Arcy Carden, and even “Bacurau” firecracker Sônia Braga (though she’s underused).
“Shotgun Wedding” falls flat as any kind of explosive or endearing couples comedy, but shines in moments thanks to the women anchoring its pirate antics. Maybe the script should have stayed in 2003, but what a joy to see these timeless leading women jetting off into the sunset.
“Shotgun Wedding” will be available to stream on Prime Video starting Friday, January 27.