de facto film reviews 2 stars

Since the release of the critical and commercial 2019 hit Hustlers that found star Jennifer Lopez horrifically snubbed of a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination, the hope would be that J. Lo would continue to choose more daring, dramatically demanding works. Last year’s fluffy Marry Me saw Lopez and Owen Wilson in a disposable, but warm-hearted rom-com and now the goofy, intermittently amusing Shotgun Wedding. Perhaps we will have to wait for Niki Caro’s The Mother hitting Netflix in May to see whether J. Lo returns to her dramatic strengths, but until then, she furthers her reliable star power in  a completely affable comedy, one that won’t be remembered long after you see it.

Darcy (Jennifer Lopez) and Tom (Josh Duhamel) have traveled all the way to the Philippines for their wedding ceremony. Already dealing with the stress of managing dysfunctional families and friends, the ceremony is hijacked by armed criminals looking for ransom money. The soon-to-be married couple find themselves separated from the hostages, forcing them to try and rescue their families on their own.

Director Jason Moore has a track record of helming solid studio comedies such as the first Pitch Perfect and the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler flick Sisters. Both those films have a peppy sense of energy to them, whereas Shotgun Wedding feels largely workmanlike. The script offers little in terms of originality or surprises with much of the runtime being held together by the charm of its stars. Lopez and Duhamel don’t have the most dynamic chemistry you’ve seen, but work well enough to carry to brunt of the film. The actors share an engaging rapport and to the films credit, it’s never boring and there is an adequate amount of chuckles to  offset the rather dry opening set up.

Moore has assembled an ideal supporting cast for this brand of broad comedy, but are all largely left to their own devices. Darcy’s unstable mother is played by the great Sonia Braga, and Cheech Marin is the rich father who arrives with his much younger girlfriend Harriet (D’Arcy Carden). Scott Coulter and Jennifer Coolidge, a cheat code for any film, are Tom’s parents — Coolidge generating the most effortless laughs of the film. Lenny Kravitz makes for a fun bit of casting as Darcy’s suave ex-fiancee Sean whose presence creates tension between the Bride and Groom. This is a comedy that has far funnier one-liners and quips — evidently the product of many improvisational moments between the cast and not well-written or designed gags.

Lopez is a gifted physical comedienne who aces the films few inspired moments of physical comedy — notably getting quite a bit of mileage out of the use of a live grenade. The film does include one blissful moment of zaniness featuring Jennifer Coolidge wielding a submachine gun. Even at its worst moments, Shotgun Wedding is still watchable, but its best moments make you wish it were better. The climactic action set piece is uninventive and lacks any finesse to separate itself from any other chase sequence on a basic cable show; perhaps with added CG blood.

Shotgun Wedding has its humorous moments, thanks in large part to the comedic timing of J. Lo and Josh Duhamel and the incomparable Jennifer Coolidge. However, this is a generically produced, scattershot action comedy that doesn’t make the most of its premise.