The death of the mid-budget studio rom-com is a topic that has been commented on and analyzed ad nauseum by countless entertainment websites and social media users, all of whom decry the fate of one of the more financially lucrative film genres. The advent of streaming and evolving moviegoing habits (which Covid only accelerated and exacerbated) have certainly played a role, but if anything, it’s the likes of the Hallmark Channel that have robbed this particular brand of entertainment of its novelty. When basic cable networks are churning out literally hundreds of these types of films every year, is it at all necessary to spend $30 just to see so-called “Hollywood stars” reenact the exact same scenarios, especially when the art of filmmaking itself has entered one of its blandest phases in recent memory? Despite all of this, two of the biggest hits from 2022, The Lost City and Ticket to Paradise, were indeed romantic comedies, proving that paying audiences for such fare still exist. Yet that still didn’t stop Lionsgate from dumping its latest romantic offering, Shotgun Wedding, online, as its planned theatrical release was quickly scrapped and the rights sold to streaming giant Amazon. In the ultimate irony, the film is best described as The Lost City meets Ticket to Paradise, leaving one to assume that the final product must be a total dumpster fire to elicit such an extreme response from its original studio.
Truth be told, Shotgun Wedding is no better or worse than those aforementioned offerings, a predictable action-comedy/romance that affords attractive stars the opportunity to endlessly banter in exotic locations, doing their best to disguise the banality at its core. Yes, you’ve seen it all before, but it all goes down rather easily, thanks to solid direction from Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect and Sisters), a few hilarious stray one-liners, and the luminous, holy-shit-how-is-this-woman-53 Jennifer Lopez at its center. Lopez stars as Darcy Rivera, a former Peace Corps volunteer — seriously, this film never even states her current job, a rather remarkable achievement for a genre where its every female protagonist is strictly defined by her career — who, as the film opens, is welcoming her loved ones to a small island in the Philippines for a budget-friendly destination wedding where she’s set to marry former minor league baseball player, and diehard romantic, Tom (Josh Duhamel).
Credit to writer Mark Hammer for cutting straight to the chase and kicking things off at the rehearsal dinner on the eve of the couple’s nuptials, as there is nary a second of dead time to be found, the film clocking in at a welcome 100 minutes. Darcy and Tom seem to have the perfect relationship, even as their parents — Robert (Cheech Marin) and Renata (Sonia Braga), and Carol (Jennifer Coolidge) and Larry (Steve Coulter), respectively — annoy the ever living shit out of them. But cracks begin to appear in the façade with the arrival of Darcy’s former fiancée, the wealthy and hunky Sean (Lenny Kravitz), forcing the couple to reevaluate their entire relationship mere hours before the big event, as long-standing grievances and resentments are finally revealed. As fate would have it, this coincides with the arrival of literal pirates, who take the entire wedding party hostage just as Tom and Darcy scrap their future together. It is now up to the couple to put aside their differences and save their loved ones — that is, if they don’t kill each other first. (See, it’s funny, because their lives are literally in danger, but they hate each other now.)
There are no surprises to be found in Shotgun Wedding, but there is also something rather freeing in knowing this upfront, allowing the viewer to luxuriate in the simple pleasures at hand. Lopez and Duhamel share a fair amount of chemistry — even when they are at one another’s throats — and they actually possess something in the way of comedic timing, which is more than can be said for other performers of films of this ilk. It’s unfortunate, then, that Lopez is forced into shrew mode for most of the film’s runtime, dampening her natural charms in the process, or that the overqualified supporting cast is given nothing to do but literally stand fully-clothed in a pool while occasionally delivering some tired punchlines. Coolidge is underutilized to the point that it feels criminal, while Marin seems comatose. But God love the great cinematographer Peter Deming, who has worked with the likes of David Lynch and Wes Craven and actually delivers a streaming rom-com that looks like an honest-to-goodness film, a few moments of wonky greenscreen notwithstanding. It ultimately reinforces the fact that, while not exactly what one would describe as a great work of cinematic art, films like Shotgun Wedding deserve the theatrical experience, where strangers can come together and occasionally laugh for a couple of hours as a rowdy audience before tossing out a half-hearted, “That wasn’t too bad” as the credits roll. Sometimes, mediocrity is more than enough for a solid night’s entertainment, as Shotgun Wedding casually proves.
You can currently stream Jason Moore’s Shotgun Wedding on Amazon Prime Video.
Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 4.