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Spoiler alert: J.Lo looks fantastic in a wedding dress. You surely knew that, given not only the plethora of wedding-themed movies Jennifer Lopez has made over the years, from “The Wedding Planner” to “Monster-in-Law” to the recent “Marry Me,” but also her own offscreen life, of course. And now comes “Shotgun Wedding,” where the ageless pop star and rom-com queen dons a pouffy white concoction that gradually sheds layers of tulle to become increasingly sexy as Lopez fights off not only cringey wedding guests but machine-gun toting pirates.
She switches at one point to combat boots — plucked from a dead guy! —- over wedding heels, and here’s another spoiler alert: if anyone can make combat boots work with pouffy tulle while running in slow motion, it’s Lopez. But all the charm and style in the world, and J.Lo has more than anyone, can’t make up for the bizarre tonal imbalance of “Shotgun Wedding,” a movie too violent to be funny and too funny (in the odd, weird sense) to be fun. The movie, directed by Jason Moore, also commits the unlikely crime of under-using that other bulletproof Jennifer of the moment, Jennifer Coolidge, who often seems to be searching palpably for decent lines.
Come on, people! You had BOTH Jennifers! This should have been a slam dunk. Kudos, though, to whoever picked the stunning resort for this particular destination wedding (the shoot took place in the Dominican Republic, standing in for the Philippines). It’s here that we first meet Darcy, our bride, at the rehearsal dinner, already looking so much better than everyone else, in resort wear and turquoise chunky jewelry — but we digress. Darcy is navigating a guest list filled with proverbial hand grenades, even before the real grenades start flying.
There’s her icy mother (Sonia Braga, also sadly underused), who is divorced from her father (Cheech Marin) and appalled at the oddly ditzy new girlfriend he’s brought to the wedding (D’Arcy Carden). Mom tells Darcy she should have accepted her dad’s millions (or billions?) to make the wedding perfect, but Darcy replies that the couple wanted to do it their way.
Besides, they’re grownups. The groom, you ask? We’re getting to that. Initially the part was to be played by Ryan Reynolds, a tantalizing comedic possibility. Then it was to be Armie Hammer, who stepped aside for obvious reasons, and now we have Josh Duhamel, perfectly handsome and agreeable but … the chemistry rests with Lopez, and not between them.
In a clever twist, Tom is the “groomzilla,” obsessed with wedding details, and spray-painting the pineapples all night long. As for his mother, well, she’s the delightfully ditzy Carol (Coolidge), obsessed with “South Pacific” and eager to have a good time. (Coolidge, hot off “White Lotus,” knows her way around a resort). It must be said that Coolidge — who at this point in her career would be anyone’s top choice to play any mother — more than pulls her weight. But there’s only so much she can do with dialogue that seems slapped together with minimum effort. True, Coolidge can make almost anything sound funny, but at times it feels like her script instructions said nothing more than “Carol says something wacky.”
Anyway, things get wacky overall pretty fast, starting with the arrival of a surprise guest by helicopter – it’s Sean, Darcy’s ex-fiance, a swaggering, shirt unbuttoned, walking Y chromosome played by Lenny Kravitz. Tom is immediately perplexed by Sean’s presence. But there’s no time to fret. The next day, with everyone dressed for the wedding, more unexpected guests arrive — and they definitely weren’t on the list. They’re pirates, and they’re after Darcy’s dad’s money.
The pirates take everyone hostage, confining them to, well, OK, an infinity pool, but still confining them! In a stroke of rom-com luck, the bride and groom are elsewhere, having a little talk about their relationship. Soon, though, the relationship is beside the point — they have to save themselves and everyone else, too. And that’s when the killing starts. Not to give away too much, but there’s lots of automatic gunfire and grenade-throwing and other mayhem that feels out of place anyway you slice it — oh yes, knives too! — and this rom-com doesn’t end up feeling very romantic OR comedic. Not to detract from Lopez’s appeal, which is timeless. She’s the one actor in the whole enterprise whose every line reading seems to ring true, no matter how silly on paper — as when she says she can’t breathe, and Tom assumes it’s, you know, the machine guns, but she says no, “It’s the shapewear.” J.Lo makes it work. (She’s also a producer on the film.)
There is one charming scene, to be fair, where we’re all allowed to relax and have fun. People are singing and dancing and doing karaoke, and it feels like a blast. Finally these are people we’d want to get to know. Unfortunately, it’s all during the closing credits. Stick around for them, though. It’ll feel like a cool dip in an infinity pool. “Shotgun Wedding,” an Amazon Studios release, has been rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America “for language and some violence/bloody images.” Running time: 100 minutes. Two stars out of four. (By Jocelyn Noveck – AP)