Shotgun Wedding

Jennifer Lopez has made a lot of movies about weddings. The Wedding Planner, Monster-in-Law, and last year's Marry Me all have her playing characters who are getting hitched. Now comes another, Shotgun Wedding, which feels like it was written for actors in their twenties, not their forties and fifties. The twist this time is that the film is an R-rated action-comedy. For every fun thing about it – Cheech Marin playing J. Lo's father, the sight of Jennifer Coolidge brandishing a high-powered assault rifle – there's something contrived enough to fall flat.

Darcy (Lopez) and Tom (Josh Duhamel) are having a destination wedding in the Philippines. Among the invitees are her divorced parents (Marin and Sonia Braga), her dad's much-younger girlfriend Harriet (D'Arcy Carden), and Tom's kooky mom Carol (Coolidge). One person who didn't RSVP but shows up anyway is Darcy's ex-boyfriend Sean (Lenny Kravitz). He arrives via helicopter, and that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ego. Shortly before the nuptials are scheduled to start, Darcy and Tom have a tiff, so they go off to an isolated spot to argue in peace. Meanwhile, a group of heavily-armed pirates arrives, taking all the guests hostage. The couple has to put their differences aside to figure out how to rescue everyone.

I like the high concept nature of that premise. It's the kind of thing that could have gotten the greenlight in the '80s – a kind of War of the Roses-meets-Commando. Parts of Shotgun Wedding are indeed fun, as when Darcy gets her wedding dress caught in the wheels of a golf cart that's veering ever-closer to a steep cliff. It's also funny how she ends up holding a hand grenade without a pin, meaning she has to run around clutching the thing until she can identify a safe way to drop it. Other action moments work far less well. A scene where Darcy and Tom escape via zip line, for example, is marred by horrendous CGI. A boat chase is similarly lame, seemingly staged to work in a forced “thrill” where Tom and an assailant get launched into the air via a parasail. Too often, it's obvious how hard the movie is working to utilize objects one would find at a luxury resort.

The comedy half is equally scattershot. Lopez delivers some decent one-liners, Coolidge is her usual scene-stealing self, and several of the wacky action gags earn a laugh. Other times, though, the screenplay strains for inspiration. An especially dumb scene finds Carol leading the guests, who are all forced at gunpoint into a swimming pool, in a spontaneous rendition of Edwin McCain's sappy ballad “I'll Be.” Because that is totally something real people would do if pirates were pointing guns at their heads. Writer Mark Hammer seems unsure if he's going for identifiable/observational humor or blatant absurdity. He therefore goes for both simultaneously. The mix doesn't work. Shotgun Wedding is best when it aims for the former, then adds a little exaggerated mayhem.

Chemistry between the leads could help overcome the weak spots. Sadly, that's where the film is most lacking. I've always found Josh Duhamel to be a black hole when it comes to charisma. He's dull onscreen. It therefore makes no sense to pair him with Jennifer Lopez, who is fundamentally charismatic, even in her worst movies. The stars have zero spark together, which diminishes the “feuding fiancées having an adventure” vibe Shotgun Wedding is going for. In fairness, Duhamel was a last-minute replacement for Armie Hammer, who was dropped from the project after a personal scandal. Still, the casting is off, with J. Lo continually outshining him. Look at George Clooney and Julia Roberts in Ticket to Paradise. Spotty material saved by killer chemistry. That picture had what this one needs.

Have I made it sound like the movie is terrible? It's not. About 60% of it is at least amusing, with a few sections better than that. The other 40% is pretty bad, particularly the idiotic revelation of why the pirates are after everybody. Shotgun Wedding has an appealing premise and a leading actress who knows how to bring the sizzle. Lopez carries it to a point, with an assist from Coolidge. Duhamel and too many dumb gags prevent it from fully becoming the romantic/thrilling joyride it was obviously intended to be.

out of four

Shotgun Wedding is rated R for language and some violence/bloody images. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.