The wounds inflicted by Ticket to Paradise haven’t yet healed, and another romantic comedy star has dared perform an operation on the genre this week. Directed by Jason Moore and starring Jennifer Lopez, the aggressively unambitious Shotgun Wedding wants nothing more than to transport you to the glorious five-year era when Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl movies would casually generate more box office revenue than RRR and then promptly erase themselves from not only your memory, but history itself.
It’s likely that Shotgun Wedding will also disappear from public consciousness within a week of release, but unlike the disappointing Ticket to Paradise — a boring film that failed to lift off even with the combined charisma of Julia Roberts and George Clooney — it at least provides some fun escapism for an hour-and-a-half. Because what else is a romantic comedy that takes place during a destination wedding supposed to do?
Lopez and Josh Duhamel play Darcy and Tom, an older-than-usual couple (for a movie like this) whose relationship feels lived-in from minute one. The is a welcome change from the norm, and the effect is almost like watching a Spider-Man movie without being shown how Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider. We get a sense of who these people are, and why they’ve made the decision to tie the knot with each other at this stage in their lives, perhaps after having come close to it with other people in the past. Darcy and Tom are joined at the fancy Bali wedding venue by their colourful family members, including his ditzy mother Carol (Jennifer Coolidge claiming yet another paid vacation in exchange of having cameras film her on it), her billionaire father Robert (a half-bored Cheech Marin clearly missing his buddy Tommy Chong), and her ex-fiance Sean (a bare-chested Lenny Kravitz giving ideas to Ranveer Singh on how to dress for Tuesdays).
But having a relatively mature couple at the centre is only one of the two trump cards that the film has up its sleeve. Shotgun Wedding flashes the other at the end of the first act, when it throws pirates into the picture. You read that right; how Triangle of Sadness of it. Unlike that festival hit, however, Shotgun Wedding couldn’t be less concerned about addressing themes beneath its glamorous surface. Like a pageant queen presented with the option of brushing up on general knowledge or hitting the gym for a couple of more hours, it chooses the latter. Not because it’s easier, but because it has the self-awareness to know that it’s competing in a popularity contest and not Kaun Banega Crorepati.
Sustaining a level of interest purely on the strength of shenanigans is an art unto itself, and Shotgun Wedding, over the course of its thankfully forgiving run time, throws Darcy and Tom into a new mess every few minutes. And every time it senses your attention waning, it summons Coolidge from whatever trance she’s in to deliver a zinger or two.
There’s something to be said about the power of pure movie stardom, especially in an era where the very concept is under threat. For all his charm — and it is considerable — Duhamel was always going to be overshadowed by Lopez’s megawatt presence. She dictates the tempo of scenes, and as Darcy, gets a handful of glorious moments in which she is allowed to flex her physicality in addition to her comedic chops.
Along with last year’s The Lost City, Shotgun Wedding presents a new way forward for a genre that was believed to have died a noble death before being given the kiss of life by streaming. Combining rom-coms with action is a fun way of attracting diverse demographics, and differentiating movies aimed at millennials — such as this one — from the harmless hits directed at tweens. Shotgun Wedding isn’t something that you’d want to save the date for, but it’s certainly something that you’d feel obligated to show up for for old time’s sake.
Director – Jason Moore
Cast – Jennifer Lopez, Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Coolidge, Cheech Marin, D’Arcy Carden, Lenny Kravitz
Rating – 3/5