Shotgun Wedding (2023)

Insipid ‘Wedding’ strands J.Lo at the altar

It’s been a January to remember for Jennifer Coolidge, scoring wins at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards for her work on HBO’s “White Lotus.” But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. And for the Norwell native, it crashes and burns amid a hail of bullets in Amazon Prime’s blood-soaked, action rom-com “Shotgun Wedding.”

Yes, you read that correctly. An action rom-com! Instead of tossing the bouquet, Jennifer Lopez unloads semi-automatic weapons on a band of brazen pirates who dare to crash her umpteenth matrimonial flick. It’s as dumb as it sounds. Perhaps, even dumber. But Coolidge escapes unscathed, spewing enough spicy one-liners to keep you interested in a film that would be whacked without her.

Unfortunately, she appears too infrequently, ceding screentime to the less-gifted J.Lo as Darcy Rivera, the divorced daughter of multi-millionaire, Roberto Rivera (Cheech Marin). It’s Dad’s booty the marauders are after when they rudely interrupt Darcy’s vows to a washed-up baseball player you wish were J.Lo’s significantly more charismatic ex, Alex Rodriguez. Alas, it’s Josh Duhamel, looking weary and disinterested as Tom Fowler, the somewhat doltish son of Coolidge and Steve Coulter.

It’s a tad insulting that Duhamel is just 10 years younger than Coolidge, but an actress has got to do what she’s got to do. And she does it well in repeatedly rescuing director Jason Moore (“Pitch Perfect”) from the tale’s jarring shifts in tone.

Ill-advisedly taking his cues from the 2010 Tom Cruise action rom-com, “Knight and Day,” Moore fails to justify the ricochets from light comedy to brutal slayings of poorly defined ruffians via fire, rocks and hand grenades. Hand grenades at a wedding? You bet! Mark Hammer’s script dispenses them like wedding favors, which seems fitting, given the wide holes he blows in logic, as J.Lo and Duhamel improbably overcome their bickering long enough to outsmart the most hapless pirates since Jack Sparrow.

The cast – which also incorporates Sonia Braga as Darcy’s mother, Renata, and Lenny Kravitz as the bride’s excessively suave former fiance, Sean – always appears to be having more fun than we are, which is typical in myriad films shot on lush locations. Here, it’s an exotic resort on a tiny isle in the Philippines. As shot by Peter Deming, the locale is ultra-alluring, albeit laid to waste by the convoluted machinations of a director and screenwriter futilely attempting to meld oil and water.

By the third act, it’s painfully obvious the filmmakers have backed themselves into an inescapable corner, as they resort to cheesy twists in which characters are revealed to be more than they originally appear. In the skillful hands of “Knives Out” creator Rian Johnson, such switch-ups are subversively keen. But with Moore and Hammer at the helm, they reek of desperation.

It’s almost as discomfiting as the film’s insistence on dehumanizing the native Filipinos, treating them like props in a violent video game, soullessly killing them off with impunity before playing their brutal deaths for laughs.

Yet, I can’t say I was ever bored. The plot is just unhinged enough to keep you wondering what preposterous turn awaits J.Lo and Duhamel, as they do their best to make the plethora of violence and death – fun! Ultimately, they fail. Still, kudos for trying. But when J.Lo’s increasingly whittled-down wedding gown is the most memorable remnant, it’s a sure sign they’re in for a tepid reception, and one running precariously low on punch.

Movie review

Shotgun Wedding

Rated: R for language, some violence and bloody images.

Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Coolidge, Cheech Marin, Sonia Braga, Callie Hernandez, Lenny Kravitz and D’Arcy Carden

Director: Jason Moore

Writer: Mark Hammer

Runtime: 100 minutes

Where: On Amazon Prime

Grade: C

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