Jennifer Lopez is 53. Josh Duhamel is 50. They’re long past being logical candidates to play the bride and groom in a destination wedding movie. The parents of the bride or groom, maybe. Shotgun Wedding is fudging it on their ages for sure – Duhamel’s character is once teased for being a “40-year-old” minor league baseball player – but Lopez does make up for it somewhat with a line of dialogue about not needing or wanting a gift registry. “I’m a grown woman,” she says. “I already have what I need.”
How they got here and whether they should be here fades into the background quickly in Shotgun Wedding. It’s clear that age and experience have given Lopez and Duhamel something someone half their age might not have: a veteran’s understanding how to make a romantic comedy with a zany concept work. And this zany concept might just be a really good one. At the very least, this is probably the first time you’ve seen a destination wedding movie mashed up with an action comedy involving hostages. You might not have though you wanted to see that movie, but it turns out you do.
Jason Moore‘s film does take a minute to get its footing. Even the introduction of a solid cast with burnished comedy credentials – Jennifer Coolidge and Cheech Marin each playing a bridal party parent, and D’Arcy Carden playing his girlfriend – doesn’t at first promise anything more than a late-career misfire for any of those involved. In the opening minutes, the movie exposes you to a number of wobbly wedding movie clichés, which, to be fair, don’t totally go away. They just get twisted and prodded enough to win a laugh or resolve in an unexpected moment as the narrative goes on.
Tom and Darcy ended up planning their wedding on a private island in the Philippines as a way to do something exotic without totally breaking the bank. Darcy’s father (Marin), a multimillionaire, could have afforded a more traditional lavish location, but Darcy didn’t want a fuss of a wedding in the first place. Tom did want that, but he wanted everything to be perfect in a DIY way that is nearly driving him crazy as the rehearsal dinner approaches. Besides, he’s pretty sure that Darcy’s father Robert preferred Darcy’s boyfriend from years ago, Sean (Lenny Kravitz), who was invited at her father’s insistence – and is going to helicopter in to the proceedings despite never RSVPing.
Whether her ex is in attendance, whether his coral shell place settings are all finished, or whether they should have gotten that gift registry (though he really wanted a Roomba) are all about to become secondary considerations. A group of pirates descends on the island just before the ceremony is set to being, meaning all the guests – including Darcy’s mother Renata (Sonia Braga), her sister Jamie (Callie Hernandez) and Tom’s mother (Coolidge) and father (Steve Coulter) – are herded into a swimming pool at gunpoint. Due to a last minute argument involving jealousy and cold feet, though, Tom and Darcy are separated from the large group of hostages – and possibly the hostages’ only hope of not being executed as the pirates try to prove the seriousness of their demand for a ransom.
You might call it “Die Hard in a Filipino resort,” except that it only shares the basic contours of that movie – unlike a real Die Hard ripoff, something like last year’s Violent Night. This is more like if you took the characters from last year’s Ticket to Paradise and forced them to stumble their way out of a situation far more serious than they should have ever found themselves in, kind of like the characters in Tropic Thunder. (Ticket stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts are older than Lopez and Duhamel, but not by as many years as you’d think.) And Lopez in particular is a lot better at the sort of “what do I do with this gun dropped by this pirate?” comedy than you might initially give her credit.
Tom and Darcy’s bickering gives the film the comedic energy it needs for some good payoffs. The excessively long train from the wedding dress Darcy didn’t want has a moment, as do Tom’s baseball skills. And if you think it’s contrived that Darcy ends up holding a grenade that’s had its pin pulled, the way that one plays out will overcome your misgivings.
Shotgun Wedding is all about overcoming misgivings and thwarting low expectations. And yet as much of a surprise as it is that Lopez and Duhamel are an admirably agile bride and groom on the lam, trying to save their mostly obnoxious family members, the biggest surprise may be how the movie creeps up on you as a trial run for an actual marriage.
A sharp stand-up comedian I know has a routine about how little a bride and groom actually know about what love is, despite the fact that they’re given to poetic pontification in their vows and in the readings chosen for their service. Says this comedian, they’ve had maybe 30 nice dinners and a couple fun holidays, and they think they know what it takes to make a marriage work – never having any idea of the actual challenges that await them, which only increase when you add children into the mix.
Not even Shotgun Wedding is deluded enough to suggest that children might be in Tom and Darcy’s future. However, it does have some real heart as it runs them through an extreme and largely metaphorical gauntlet of the work it takes to forge a functioning marriage – the unexpected obstacles, the nasty fights, the times you have to spray a pirate in the face with hairspray in order to subdue him. By delivering this message honestly while also delivering a fun action comedy, with a few other genres sprinkled in, Shotgun Wedding has its wedding cake and eats it too.
Shotgun Wedding is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.