A “BULLET TO THE BRAIN”
ROMANTIC COMEDY FLOP
Within the realm of romantic comedies endeavors, a special little “niche” has been curated over the past several decades in the form of narratives of this genre’s presentation and tone in drumming those classic “rom com” feelings that surround a wedding marriage. Naturally, wedding movies, much like romantic comedies, are over-the-top and surreally attainable in these “all-too-perfect” scenarios of marital ceremonies and wedding bliss. While many of productions in this category follow a routine plot that are well too familiar, which are usually “feel good” plots and subplots, yet still remains fundamental to the building blocks of a romantic comedy feature, including lessoned to be learned as well as inspirations to be found. From wedding dresses to rehearsal dinners, wedding themed rom coms poke fun at some of the absurd moments that guest and wedding party members encounter as well as tackling deeper issues, including family dynamics, multicultural wedding idealisms, and testing the bonds of newlyweds as they navigate such monumental occasion. Such prime examples of this can be found in movies such as 1997’s My Best Friend’s Wedding, 1999’s Runaway Bride, 2005’s Wedding Date, 2008’s 27 Dresses, 2009’s Bride Wars, 2011’s Bridesmaids, and 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians just to name a few. Now, Summit Entertainment (Lionsgate) and Amazon Prime Studios as well as director Jason Moore present the latest spin on the classic romantic comedy wedding premise with the release of Shotgun Wedding. Does this latest endeavor of the wedding rom com variety find comfortable within its familiarity or is it a shallow project that ditches the bride / groom at the alter?
The big “wedding day” is almost upon upcoming newlyweds Darcy (Jennifer Lopez) and Tom (Josh Duhamel), with the pair having a destination ceremony in the Philippines, hoping to enjoy the tropical surroundings with family and friends. As to be expected, stress levels start to rise when the guest begin to arrive, finding Robert (Cheech Martin) and Renata (Sonia Braga), dealing with on-going divorce resentment, while Tom’s mother, Carol, (Jennifer Coolidge), is too excited by all the travel and wedding day celebrations. Also, spoiling the mood is the unexpected arrival of Darcy’s ex, Sean (Lenny Kravitz), a suave and handsome man who Tom isn’t comfortable being around. When the tension between Tom and Darcy explodes the day of the wedding, their personal issues with each other are soon overshadowed by the sudden arrival of pirates looking to forcibly claim a multi-million-dollar fortune from Robert’s mogul empire. As armed enforcer to gather up the attendees and guest and begin to organize their management of their hostages, Darcy and Tom manage to separate themselves from their captors, force to figure out a way to escape from danger, save the day, and remain in love as they work out a plan to take out the invaders.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
As I’ve mentioned in some of my past reviews, I am a fan of the romantic comedy films. Yes, they can be a bit cheesy and / or “too perfect” in its formulaic ways of how things play out, including familiar tropes and cliches, but there’re quite enjoyable nevertheless and still retain the “warm, fuzzy” feeling that you get while watching some familiar and “feel good” movie endeavors. It’s like comfort food…. nothing original or brand spanking new, yet still is delicious and offers a sense of comfort to eat. As mentioned in my opening paragraph, the whole “wedding angle” can usually play a part in the romantic comedy endeaovr….be it a smaller portion of the film or (to this review’s point) be the central focus of the feature. I definitely can see the appeal of it. Love is in the air, relationships are tested, family affairs are brought up, wacky / quirky side characters from the bridal parties show up, and the actual wedding ceremony. It’s almost like a subcategory of the romantic comedy and acts as a smooth “bread and butter” to the proceedings for a familiar narrative that acts as “comfort food”. Of course, since I grew up in the late 90s and early 00s (my teenage / young adult years), I was exposed to several of these movies, which almost had a heyday renaissance for these wedding rom com releases. Some of my favorites would have to be 27 Dresses, My Best Friend’s Wedding, and Wedding Date, while Crazy Rich Asians is probably my favorite one of the groupings. In the end, romantic comedies and wedding narrative sort of go “hand-in-hand”, with the pair harmonizing more often than not to make for a “perfect match” of matrimony vows and comedic / heartfelt moments.
This brings me back to talking about Shotgun Wedding, a 2023 romantic comedy film and the latest production within this film genre. Before I jump into this portion, I will state the movie was technically released back in 2022 (released theatrically in Singapore) for international territories, but the distribution rights were bought by Amazon and to debut on Amazon Prime Video at the end of January 2023. So, I technically put this movie in 2023 film release category. Anyways, I can’t recall hearing much about this particular film when it was first announced. I think it was sometime after I saw Marry Me (a 2022 film that starred Jennifer Lopez), that I first heard some “tidbits” about this movie, which had Lopez in the lead and would opposite against actor Josh Duhamel. After that, I really didn’t hear much about this upcoming project. Flash forward to around December 2022 and I began to see a few TV spot commercial for Shotgun Wedding, which kind of reminded me of Lost City, two leads caught up on a bizarre situation and need to work together to save the day. Definitely not a “must see”, but looked quite playful from the preview snippets that I saw. So, the film was on list of films to see in the 2023 releases. So, the film was released on Amazon Prime Video at the end of January, and I didn’t hear much about it, with only negative reviews and remarks about the picture. This, of course, didn’t bode well with me on making a “active” motivation to stream the movie, especially since I was behind on my reviews for 2022 (those that lingered from last year) as well as reviewing more favorable releases in 2023. So, now with some free time in my schedule, I finally decided to check out Shotgun Wedding and to see if it was bad and disappointing as a lot are making it out to be. And what did I think of it? Well, I’m sorry to say…. that the reviews and “word of mouth” about this movie are true. Despite a recognizable cast and maybe a good production quality, Shotgun Wedding is a disastrous and messy romantic comedy flop that feels utterly half-baked all the way around. The potential is definitely there, but it’s quickly squander by such a flat and disposable misfire of an action / comedy endeavor.
Shotgun Wedding is directed by Jason Moore, whose previous directorial works include such films like Pitch Perfect, Sisters, and Stay Tuned: The Movie. Given his familiarity with comedy aspects and more lighthearted endeavors, Moore does seem like the ideal choice for helm a project such as this. To his credit, Moore certainly makes the film light on its toes and briskly introduces the story’s main characters during the opening sequence, which sets up all the various characters and players up for their initial on-screen introductions. It’s a somewhat clever way to set up the film’s characters and the main premise of the story without going into unnecessary sequences. From there, the movie does have a steady flow within the first act, which (again) sets everything up and the main plot of the feature. There’s a lot of problems with this movie (more on that below), but Moore knows how what his audience is expecting, and kind-of-sort delivers that in romantic comedy that acts more like an action-comedy endeavor; something similar to Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Wacky and off-beat scenarios soon entail the journey of Darcy and Tom as they must learn to work on their marital troubles before the say “I do”, but first must “save the day” rather than “Save the date”.
For its presentation, I would say that this is perhaps the greatest redeeming qualities that the movie has to offer. While it certainly is not a “game changer” in wedding themed romantic comedy productions, the visual background aesthetics for the feature do make a statement throughout the entire feature. Yes, it sort of meets the industry standard for films of this caliber (doesn’t color outside the lines or break the bank), but some of the film’s locations and places that help set up the story’s tropical resort setting is quite beautiful to behold. Of course, filming took place in the Dominican Republic, which certainly was beneficial towards the overall background appeal of the movie. Plus, a lot of the film’s other nuances from its main “behind the scenes” key players, including Page Buckner (production design), Elvis Marinez (art direction), Tamar Barnoon, Braulio Gil, Yolanny Mendoza, and Oliver Rivas Madera (set decorations), and Mitchell Travers (costume designs) were pretty good for their sum parts in making Shotgun Wedding’s presentation look appeal and pleasant to look at. The cinematography by Paul Deming is okay. Nothing really to rave about, but also not much nitpick over. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Pinar Toprak, is overall pretty good. It’s not quite the “best” movie soundtrack that I’ve heard (even from a romantic comedy endeavor), but it certainly gets the job done and hits all the right notes (bombastic in its suspenseful moments and tender in some of its dialogue drama). Thus, it sort of breaks even. Not terrible, but nothing truly memorable.
Unfortunately, Shotgun Wedding has more blundering faults than successful strides, with the project plagued with a layer of blandness all the way around. How so? Well, for starters, the movie itself is utterly bland and generic as they come. What do I mean by that? Well, it goes without saying the entire feature is quite mundane and bland (I will be saying “bland” a lot in this review as that what basically describes this movie to the letter) and it doesn’t help that Moore and his team squanders the almost “tailor made” action-comedy premise within the setting of a romantic comedy framing. Who is definitely one of the main culprits of this is found in the writing for Shotgun Wedding, which was penned by Mark Hammer. The script for the movie is rather corny and predictable from the get-go, so all the clever “twists and turns” that are thrown into the mix are easily telegraphed before they happen and end up pretty “meh” when they do happen. Basically, everything about the script is ripe with such formula nuances and unexciting material that it makes the story being told rather uninteresting. The story of a couple getting married (on the day of) trying to save their wedding party from mercenary pirates seems like a “proof positive” premise that could’ve (and should’ve) worked, especially with a director is familiar with comedy endeavors and a cast that is up to the task. Ultimately, though the script is one of the movie’s major downfalls and never really colors outside the lines of being “safe” endeavor by never going beyond the standard routine for either a romantic comedy or an action-comedy flick. The end result is something that feels totally takes shape on its own merits by borrowing heavily on familiar tropes and narrative prose that have been done to death and done in far better productions. In short, there is no creative ingenuity in the story of Shotgun Wedding and the end product clearly showcases that point.
Adding more insult to injury is the simple fact that script’s written dialogue is quite wooden and corny. Yes, I do understand that the movie was trying to go for a more “lighthearted” tone and humorous bits within its narrative progression, but what’s presented is just painfully awful and just flat all the way around. What’s even worse is the actual is the film’s humor, which is just dreadful and even flatter than the actual dialogue. The various joke and gags that the movie presents are neither too dated to connect with modern audiences or just unfunny from the get-go. So, it comes as no surprise that the humor’s intended target misses a lot more than it lands, which considers that this movie is both a romantic comedy and an action-comedy endeavor, this completely disappointing and a misfire on all parts.
From a director’s part, Moore certainly doesn’t help matters in these criticisms as he makes the movie feel rather generic and helms the project with a sense of “autopilot” feeling, which is never a good thing. He makes for a compelling (semi at least) fun for the feature to play around with, especially in how he places a large emphasis on the actors and actress involved, but the direction for the project feels rather shallow and empty, never really staging or “going big” when the feature desperately wants to. It also doesn’t help that the action scenes that Moore stages feels dated and conventional, which (again) doesn’t help the feature’s faults. In addition, the movie does suffer from “boring” parts, which is caused by uneven pacing issues that are littered throughout the entire film’s runtime of 101 minutes (one hour and forty-one minutes). What’s made even worse is that the movie basically loses steam halfway through the presentation, with Moore relying heavily on the acting talent’s screen presence to carry the story. Because of this, the latter half of Shotgun Wedding is woefully boring and unimpressive. There seems to be a lot of improvising amongst the cast that doesn’t really go anywhere and ends up hindering the project. Even the pirates, the men behind holding the wedding party for ransom, are as vanilla as they come, with the “unmasking” of the mastermind behind them is equally unimaginative, leading to a climax that’s poorly planned and staged.
The cast in Shotgun Wedding has some recognizable acting talents involved on this project, but, unfortunately, none are really up for the task in making these character either their own or even memorable in the movie. Leading the charge in feature (and headlining the movie) is singer / actress Jennifer Lopez and actor Josh Duhamel, who play soon-to-be newlyweds Darcy River and Tom Fowler. Known for her roles in The Wedding Planner, Marry Me, and Maid in Manhattan, Lopez has almost grown accustomed to being in a romantic comedy feature film for more than two decades, able to play the leading role that has plethora of troubles and woes just must accomplish for “getting the guy” in the end. Like the genre itself, it works and Lopez is all the more capable of selling that notion in the characters that she portrays. In Shotgun Wedding, Lopez certainly has the right amount of screen presence to shine as the main lead for the movie, but that’s pretty much it. The character of Darcy is quite formulaic and nothing to rave about, with her story arc plagued with similar problems of parental troubles, financial woes, and martial “cold feet”. While all of this is fine and well, what follows is a more haphazard mess (as mentioned above), with the script going limp. Plus, Lopez herself can’t uphold the movie on her own, especially one that is poorly executed as this one, Thus, despite her attempts, Lopez’s Darcy comes off as a forgettable protagonist that never fully comes into her own.
Likewise, Duhamel, who is known for his roles in Transformers, Safe Haven, and All My Children, doesn’t really have much to do in the movie, with the exception of “bouncing off” scenarios and ideas from Lopez’s Darcy. It’s a shame because there’s clearly something that the script wants to say about his character of Tom, but seems to forgo it entirely for some rudimentary “surface level” character tropes and cliches. It’s quite clear that the movie’s camera (and script) has more interest in Lopez than Duhamel, who sort of is just there for the ride. Yes, the “back and forth” banter between Darcy and Tom is somewhat amusing, but it becomes tiresome, especially since both Lopez and Duhamel have very little chemistry with each other. They are both good-looking (yes) and look good paired up with each other, but nothing more than that.
The main supporting characters in the movie also fall short on being original, humorous, and memorable in the film. Who actually fares the worst (in my opinion) is the character of Carol Fowler, Tom’s mother, who is played by actress Jennifer Coolidge (American Pie and The White Lotus). Coolidge as certainly “branded” herself, much like how actress Melissa McCarthy has done, with most (if not all) her character performances being quite similar to each other…..a loud and dim-witted female architype that usually points out the obvious for some type of comedic levity in a scene. It definitely fits Coolidge and she’s made it her business to playing such a character in many projects. However, in Shotgun Wedding, that particular schtick is rather a groaner and utterly poor. Try as she might, Coolidge’s Carol is so eyeroll inducing character that it becomes so tedious and horrible to watch. Again, I have nothing wrong with Coolidge as an actress, but the material handled to her (and a bit of her performance) is downright unfunny and borderline annoying from start to finish.
Behind her, comedian actor Cheech Marin (Up in Smoke and Tin Cup) and actress Sonia Braga (Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands and Moon Over Parador) play Robert Rivera and Renata Ortiz, Darcy’s divorced parents. Personally, I felt that there was nothing wrong with the acting from Marin and Braga (both are decent in their roles, but nothing strikingly memorable), yet the script makes them so bland and uninteresting, which is quite a shame. Lastly, of this grouping, singer / actor Lenny Kravitz (The Hunger Games and The Butler) plays the character of Sean Hawkins, a cool and suave man who is also Darcy’s ex. Like the others, I have nothing wrong with Kravitz’s performance, but his character of Sean is rather one-note and (without spoiling the plot) progresses in a rather generic way as the material written for him feel half-baked.
The rest of the characters, including actress Callie Hernandez (The Flight Attendant and La La Land) as Jamie Rivera, actor Desmin Borges (You’re the Worst and Private Life) as Ricky Silver, actress D’Arcy Carden (The Good Place and Barry) as Harriet, actor Steve Coulter (She-Hulk: Attorney at Law and Oppenheimer) as Larry Fowler, actress Melissa Hunter (Deep Space 69 and Adult Wednesday Addams) as Jeannie, actor Alberto Isaac (Family Law and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) as Ace, and Selena Tan (Rogue Trader and Crazy Rich Asians) as Margy, play supporting players in the movie. While their acting talent is not brought into question, it’s the utter waste of those said talents that becomes the main culprit. To be honest, no one really gives bad acting, yet these side characters in the film are quite cookie cutter and generic as they come; off-shoots of commonplace wedding party guests and workers cliches.
On the day of their wedding, Dracy Rivera and Tom Fowler must evade and outwit a band of mercenary pirates that are holding their wedding guest at ransom in the movie Shotgun Wedding. Director Jason Moore latest film takes a romantic comedy premise and wrap it within an action-comedy framing, which blends the two together for something that promises a lot, yet never delivers. While the film’s visual presentation is solid and I like some of the cast involved, the movie itself suffers greatly from a below average blandness and being too much on autopilot, including poor direction, an incredible unoriginal and bland script, an unfunny and corny jokes that don’t go anywhere, a generic plot that’s utterly derivate, a waste of the acting talent, and a lackluster characters that really do much beyond their stereotypical caricature wedding personas. Personally, I didn’t care for this movie at all. It was unevenly paced, sluggish, unfunny, lackluster, generic, and just a waste of acting talent involved. This is one of those movies that sounds good on paper, but comes off as poorly conceived in its execution. The potential is clearly there for a memorable romantic comedy feature, but everything about the project is just formulaic and bland as they come. Such a disappointment. Thus, as one can imagine, my recommendation for this is a hard and sour tasting “skip it” as there isn’t much new or creatively done to be brought to the table that already hasn’t been done by far better wedding tropes in a “rom com” flick. Save your money (and your time), you’ll thank me for it. And if you are a fan of J-Lo….just watch The Wedding Planner or Marry Me. Trust me, you’ll get far more mileage and enjoyment from either of those two movies than you do with this one. In the end, while the romantic comedy premise of weddings and marital bliss will continue to be a narrative forefront for the genre, Shotgun Wedding is a clear and present reminder that not all films are created equally and that this particular project is a “bullet to the brain” bore.
1.4 Out of 5 (Skip It)
Released On: January 27th, 2023
Reviewed On: October 16th, 2023
Shotgun Wedding is 101 minutes long and is rated R for language and some violence / bloody images