A film review by Craig J. Koban February 9, 2023


2023, R, 101 mins.

Jennifer Lopez as Darcy  /  Josh Duhamel as Tom  /  Jennifer Coolidge as Tom's Mom  /  Sônia Braga as Grace's Mom  /  Lenny Kravitz as Sean  /  D'Arcy Carden as Harriet  /  Cheech Marin as Robert  /  Selena Tan as Marge  /  Desmin Borges as Ricky  /  Steve Coulter as Larry

Directed by Jason Moore  /  Written by Mark Hammer




The new action/comedy SHOTGUN WEDDING has a premise that should have delivered on both action and comedy, but manages to mostly fail in both respects.  The film concerns a destination wedding on a private island in the Philippines that becomes overtaken by pirates that then take all of the guests hostage and try to ransom them for $45 million, with the bride and groom being forced to go into full-on John McClane mode and save everyone.  

I mean, this should have worked...right?!  

Now, I know what you might also be thinking: Didn't the recently released Gerard Butler action thriller PLANE also involve a hostage taking on a Philippine island?  It sure did, but that film didn't involve a wedding of any kind like SHOTGUN WEDDING, but somehow this new Jason Moore helmed effort can't seem to fully embrace its DIE HARD meets WEDDING CRASHERS concept.  Sometimes this film takes a stranglehold on its hard-R rated content (thankfully, this is not a watered down PG-13), but other times it's hopelessly awash in vanilla bland TV sitcom shenanigans.  SHOTGUN WEDDING is simply not funny or thrilling, and the very well assembled and game cast can't save the day from the scripting mediocrity on display here. 

The couple-to-be-wed in question are Tom (Josh Duhamel) and Darcy (Jennifer Lopez), who are both madly in love and can't wait to tie the knot at their lavish wedding that's being held on an improbably picturesque Philippine inland.  Just about every friend and family member that counts is in attendance, not to mention a few surprise visitors, like Darcy's ex-lover in Sean (Lenny Kravitz), who makes it his mission to arrive in style in his own private helicopter to steal the thunder.  Sean has - shall we say - an uncomfortably close bond with Darcy that still exists despite them being in the friendzone, which still annoys Tom to no end.  Tom has his other share of pressures too, which mostly stems from the fact that he's being a meticulous control freak about every minute detail of the wedding.  Darcy, on the other hand, just wishes that her future hubby could loosens up and try to enjoy the weekend.  There's some potentially intriguing bit of gender reversal happening in SHOTGUN WEDDING with the husband wanting the wedding day pitch perfect and the wife being pretty chill about it all, but the screenplay by Mark Hammer never really capitalizes on the comic possibilities contained within. 



There's added stress coming from some of the family members that have come, like Darcy's parents - Robert (Cheech Marin) and Renata (Sonia Braga) - knee deep in divorce proceedings (awkward!), not to mention that Tom's momma in Carol (Jennifer Coolidge) is a different kind of special needs case; she's on a bit of a sugary rush about the whole travel and festivities to come (BTW, the actress is only eleven years Duhamel's senior in real life, which seems like insulting casting if you ask me).  Really, really complicating things is the sudden arrival of some dastardly masked pirates that take over the entire event at machine gun point and demand a hefty ransom from the multi-millionaire Robert.  Rather luckily, Tom and Darcy manage to segregate themselves from the guests as a whole and try to come up with a rescue plan while dealing with all of their insecurities - that have come to the forefront at a very inopportune time - about becoming a married couple for life.  When all the family members get zip-tied and herded away like cattle by their captors, Tom and Darcy have to put their ever-so-loosely organized plan into high gear to ensure not only their survival, but everyone else's that have come for what should be their big day. 

I'll say this about the leads here: Duhamel and Lopez are limitlessly and ridiculously attractive human beings and are good actors to boot, but they're really badly cast here when one considers the basic details of their respective roles.  Just think about Tom for moment: He's established as a woefully washed up Major League Baseball player, but Duhamel in real life is 50-years-old.  Either pro baseball - in the warped reality of this film - is either keeping players well past their career expiration date or the makers here are trying to sell Tom as someone far younger than Duhamel is in reality.  There's also a hint in the story that he was actually scouted a year before this wedding.  Sure.  Right.  Uh huh.  You betcha.  As a person that is pushing 50 myself, I don't want to engage in petty ageist attacks on the main stars here.  Duhamel and Lopez (who's astonishingly 52-years-old) look super humanly better than most fiftysomethings out there, but they're simply not credible here as a believable couple based on the nonsensical character development on display that most likely should have had actors in their twenties.  They could have made Tom anything but a baseball player that wanted to get back into the pros.  Why wasn't this changed with Duhamel's casting?  Who the hell vetted these choices? 

Dopey scripting aside, Duhamel and Lopez could have rose to the challenge to make this frazzled couple simmer with natural chemistry, but somehow and someway - and even in their capable hands - they just don't click together here.  Both characters feel less and less real as the film progresses, mostly because they're reduced to lame-brained personality quirks that paradoxically makes them less likeable as the film careens to its climax.  Tom is the hyper focused control freak and Darcy is reduced to shrill screaming fits when things don't go her way.  There should be some laughs to be derived from a woman and man in full wedding attire having to form a clandestine plan to take out some vile pirate kidnappers, but laughs are undeniably not aplenty here.  SHOTGUN WEDDING is basically a series of SNL-esque vignettes that painfully try to score big guffaws, but far too many moments seem to be lacking hearty punchlines altogether.  And when the comedic material just sits there listlessly and drags the whole film down, all we are left with are the action sequences, which could have been this film's minor saving grace.  I will commend SHOTGUN WEDDING for not being timid minded when it comes to violence and gore, which is kind of surprising (one sequence involving Tom trying to remove his restraints with a kitchen meat slicer has predictably bloody results, not to mention that one baddie in the end gets killed via helicopter blades in a squirm inducing fashion).  It's during these few fleeting moments when the film developed a bit of a pulse, only then to flatline when it tried to haphazardly segue to farcical pratfalls.   

Here's the other thing: I never felt that anyone in this film was in any real danger.  Tension is all but absent here.  Sure, there are characters flailing about and screaming hysterically throughout (this film confuses physical nonsense and volume with high hilarity).  Comedy is highly subjective, to be sure, but very little on display here made me laugh and laugh consistently.  I enjoyed a couple of moments, like Coolidge as her aggressively happy-go-lucky mother that is later shown to have a surprising affinity with machine guns when the situation requires it.  I also thought that Kravitz was a good fit for his male himbo beefcake that seems to have no idea of how weird of a vibe he gives off by his presence (especially in Tom's mind).  Also, the tropical locations of SHOTGUN WEDDING look thoroughly stunning.  This is one of those travelogue pictures where you know precisely why everyone signed on: It wasn't for the smart and savvy material, but rather the enticement of hanging out and working in such sumptuous elements for several weeks (basically a paid vacation for all involved).  SHOTGUN WEDDING is a pretty bland and uninspired action/comedy on most counts that I won't remember in the days after screening it.  Plus, I felt sorry for Lopez in particular, especially for how she seems to be wallowing back into bad romcoms again after her tour de force and career rejuvenating performance in HUSTLERS a few years back.  That film brought Jenny back to the block, but the witless and tired SHOTGUN WEDDING serves as an eviction notice.

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