‘Shotgun Wedding’ might be a bit formulaic and have some pacing issues, but Jennifer Lopez, Josh Duhamel, and a great supporting cast make it work.
While no movie genre has ever been more celebrated and mocked as the rom-com, Lopez manages to make this destination wedding a fun one by offering audiences the exact escape we expect from these kinds of movies. The premise itself might seem silly or far-fetched and suffer from some pacing issues, but it’s precisely what makes for a very charming and welcoming escape. Directed by Jason Moore of Pitch Perfect fame and written by Mark Hammer (2014’s Two Night Stand), Shotgun Wedding plays to more than just romance and wedding shenanigans in its 100 minutes of matrimonial chaos. In many ways, it’s also a buddy comedy that appeals to the male demographic itching for some action.
With the pair giving new meaning to the age-old wedding vows of “till death do us part,” Shotgun Wedding finds Darcy Rivera (Lopez) and Tom Fowler (Duhamel) welcoming all their friends and family to the destination wedding of their dreams. Well, maybe more for Tom who has become a “groomzilla” and grown obsessed with DIY spray-painted pineapples, whereas Darcy just wants something simple. This exact flipping of gender roles makes Shotgun Wedding a slightly different take on the traditional rom-com, which adds a real zeal with wit and realism to the conversations the couple has.
But as the two prepare for the big day while simultaneously having cold feet about tying the knot, they get more than they bargained for when a group of pirates crash the party and take everyone hostage – except the missing bride and groom. As disorder erupts causing a string of wild events to unfold, the troubles Tom and Darcy face are enough for any couple to want to break up. But instead, the soon-to-be wedded pair work together amid the most dangerous situation of their lives to save their families and friends on the tropical island, while returning to the reasons they fell in love with each other in the first place. But naturally, with pirates in the picture threatening their loved ones, there’s also a long list of calamities that they find themselves in, including explosions from loose grenades, gun fights, and lots of bloodshed — enough to make Darcy pass out more than once.
After being plagued with recasting issues from Ryan Reynolds (who serves as the film’s executive producer) to Armie Hammer and finally tying the knot with Duhamel, Shotgun Wedding still works even if it’s a bounty of age-old rom-com tropes and comical absurdities that could find their way into an outlandish Tim Robinson sketch. But Duhamel is perfect in this role as the doting groom with enough neuroticisms that sound like lines made for Reynolds. Bringing his own punch and personality to the film, Duhamel manages to carry an attraction unlike any of his previous roles.
As for Lopez, you’ve got to give the living icon credit for knowing her brand and working it down to a tee. Though she has real acting chops and brings a relatability to every performance, it’s her rom-coms that really stand out in a long, storied catalog. Being infectiously funny and amiably adorable is part of the persona she radiates in these films, but the difference in this one is how she elevates that charisma through the film’s hilarious and often eccentric action sequences. Her character Darcy might appear scared and passes out at the sight of blood, but she manages to create a strong lead who can really be her own person.
While some might argue the pair suffers from a lack of chemistry, it’s more aligned to their characters being disconnected at the start in their feelings about the wedding. This splintered dynamic plays most effectively in the action sequences when the two work together and in the quiet moments when they are vulnerable with one another. Even with the change-up in casting for Tom, Duhamel manages to bring a flair to Lopez’s on-screen magnetism, proving he’s a worthy opponent and sparring partner for the megastar.
Thanks to their dynamic making the movie all the easier to love and laugh with, the pair is supported by an amazingly eclectic cast that is complementary to the film’s chaotic themes. With Jennifer Coolidge leading the supporting cast, she is every bit as fun as you can imagine, as she not only protects the hostages, but she fires off an assault rifle and becomes the most delightfully unhinged character you could imagine. Coolidge is also joined by Cheech Marin, Sonia Braga, Lenny Kravitz, and D’Arcy Carden, who is someone you cannot take your eyes off of when seeing her on screen.
Featuring some solid comedy sequences and moments that will have you belly laughing to some tender scenes that will have you tearing up, Shotgun Wedding is genuinely funny and a great entry in the romantic comedy genre of 2023. Sure, it has a few pacing issues and is formulaic from the get-go, but it’s still by rom-com standards, a naturally easy-breezy movie that takes fans on a trip to the delightfully sweet and balanced shrine of Lopez’s earliest submissions in the genre. Harmonizing romance with comedy and a lot of enjoyable action, Shotgun Wedding still lands on its feet amid some bumpiness and delivers precisely what it needs to make this a fun, feel-good entry for 2023.
Shotgun Wedding will begin streaming on Amazon Prime Video on January 27.