"Shotgun Wedding" just isn't enough, despite attractive leads and a reliably daffy Coolidge

Shotgun Wedding (2023)

Making “Shotgun Wedding” a runaway success should be like shooting fish in a barrel. You have the collective charms and attractiveness of Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel as an almost-newlywedded couple, and Jennifer Coolidge co-starring as the mother of the groom is instantly a bright spot. After giving us 2012’s snappy, rewatchable crowd-pleaser “Pitch Perfect” and the just-funny-enough 2015 Tina Fey-Amy Poehler vehicle “Sisters,” Jason Moore directs these bankable stars in what could have been a rollicking (and refreshingly R-rated) escape. With all the ingredients in place, why does this action-comedy-romance end up feeling like it just keeps hoping for the best?

There’s just something about wedding movies that keeps Jennifer Lopez coming back. She plays Darcy, a former Peace Corps worker who’s getting married to Tom (Josh Duhamel), a minor-league designated hitter. They’ve planned a destination wedding at an island resort in the Philippines (played by the Dominican Republic), but nothing is going right. Darcy’s critical divorced mom Renta (Sônia Braga) is bitter about her rich ex-husband Robert (Cheech Marin) bringing along his younger yoga-instructor girlfriend (D’Arcy Carden). Robert has also invited Darcy’s ostentatious and still-sexy ex-fiancé, Sean (Lenny Kravitz), who never RSVP’d but lands in a helicopter for the rehearsal dinner. Just as Darcy gets cold feet on their actual wedding day, armed Balinese pirates crash the event. The guests are taken hostage, but Darcy and Tom are forced to put their differences aside and save the day.

Expecting its cast to just cruise along on lame writing, “Shotgun Wedding” only shakes out to be mostly watchable, even intermittently diverting, but entirely disposable. It does open with some promise, but goes on to bumble the ratio of its most fundamental elements (screwball comedy, romance, and action). It’s never truly as funny as it strives to be, unless Jennifer Coolidge is up to something. It’s not very romantic. The action is kinetic and fun in concept but only competently staged without any verve. The script by Mark Hammer (2014’s “Two Night Stand”) is so scattershot that it’s a surprise there’s any payoff to a setup. For instance, Tom is a baseball player whose contract wasn’t renewed just so he can later hit a hand grenade perfectly like a ball out of the park. Call it Chekhov’s Hand Grenade. 

“Shotgun Wedding” hangs on making its two stars sexy (not that it’s hard) but also laugh at themselves and get a little dirty when throwing themselves into the violent action. It just doesn’t give them actual characters to play, and their chemistry never rises above tepid. The naturally magnetic Lopez gets to perform some broad comedy, fainting at the sight of blood and holding on for dear life to a live hand grenade, and she shows off her hard work in her underwear. Still looking like a man's man, Duhamel also jumps at the chance to be a little goofy and less than slick. All of the touchy-feely insecurities that eventually come out between Darcy and Tom—she didn’t want a big wedding and he is a groomzilla who wants everything to be perfect—feel flimsy and tacked-on because none of the groundwork has been laid. Both actors are down for anything and try to keep the whole thing afloat with their just-trying-to-survive banter, but better material just seems out of reach.

As it goes in life, Jennifer Coolidge is the one reliable source for laughs. Coming off her much-deserved acclaim from HBO’s “The White Lotus,” she could read a cake recipe and make it hilarious and spontaneous. Unsurprisingly, Coolidge steals the whole damn show as Darcy’s daffy future mother-in-law Carol who’s obsessed with “South Pacific” and has never been out of the country. Also, more movies should allow Coolidge to fire a Uzi and lead an a capella singalong to Edwin McCain’s love ballad “I’ll Be.” A pretty impressive supporting cast also fills some pretty perfunctory roles: Sônia Braga and Cheech Marin give it their absolute all as Darcy’s padres, and a very charismatic Lenny Kravitz amuses as Tom’s would-be competition. Even Callie Hernandez and Desmin Borges, playing Darcy's sister and Tom's best buddy, have a more engaging love-hate interplay than our hot leads. What was fun for the cast to shoot isn’t necessarily all that fun for the audience to bear witness. Case in point: the whole ensemble sings and dances to The Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian” at the fake wedding reception. Why settle or even celebrate mediocrity?

Grade: C

Amazon Studios is releasing “Shotgun Wedding” (100 min.) on Prime Video January 27, 2023.