Shotgun Wedding is a slapstick action movie that happens to be in a romantic comedy format. It’s not exactly a great or original action movie nor is it a great or original romantic comedy. But it has an endearing madcap energy and is a bit messier than most action romantic comedies tend to be. The character types and relationships are loud and comedic and while there is a threat of deadly danger it’s basically cartoonish violence with a bit more blood splatter and liberal usages of f-bombs. Overall, there’s a few solid dopey one-liners and silly moments which makes it enjoyable.
Tom (Josh Duhamel) and Darcy (Jenifer Lopez) are getting married on a faraway tropical island in the Philippines. The guests include Darcy’s mom Renata (Sonia Braga), Darcy’s affluent father, Robert (Cheech Martin), his girlfriend Harriet (D’Arcy Carden), and Darcy’s sister, Jamie (Callie Hernandez). They are meeting Tom’s family, his somewhat sleepy and video camera obsessed father, Larry (Steve Coulter) and Tom’s somewhat freely babbling mother, Carol (Jennifer Coolidge). With the arrival of Darcy’s ex, Sean (Lenny Kravitz), Tom and Darcy are bickering about the scope of their wedding. When it looks like their differences may tear them apart, in comes a raid of pirates, taking the guests hostage. Now on the run across the island, Darcy and Tom are tied together and holding a hand grenade but things keep going from bad to worse as the pirates and the conspiracy may be bigger than it seems.
Ryan Reynolds was originally supposed to star, and still retains an Executive Producer credit, so that is probably why the film has a madcap romantic comedy and action violence vibe. The rating is a muddle; in Canada it has a 16+ rating while in the US it’s R-rated 18+. If this had been released theatrically, as originally planned before Amazon bought it, it probably would have been easily trimmed to make a PG-13. Although the ratings board in the US has a weird rule about the number of F-bombs so it got an R but tonally this isn’t an R-rated movie. The action and language are a bit too hard-edged for the wacky vibe, although it does give it a bit more bite than standard action comedies. There’s a moment that sort of crystallizes the dichotomy between weirdness, romantic earnestness and action is when Tom and Darcy have an impromptu wedding ceremony while being held hostage and the entire crowd breaks out into song as she walks down the aisle. It’s romantically corny, with a great silly joke where a pirate is enthusiastically singing along, and the scene ends with gunfire and explosions.
There are funny bits here like how Darcy ends up carrying a live grenade she can’t drop. It’s contrived she holds onto it for way too long, as she could have disposed of it much earlier when they were walking up a large tower. But she does eventually drop it at an opportune moment that results in a satisfying kaboom. There’s a fun scene when Darcy and Tom bicker about the plan to disarm an incoming goon with Tom espousing the benefits of using a net. When Tom takes out another goon, he and Darcy start freaking out about the amount of blood and brain matter. One moment when Darcy and Tom try to cut off their zip ties they find a meat slicer and Tom accidentally takes a chunk off his hand which causes Darcy to pass out, another moment that would have been hard with a PG-13 rating. The finale features chaotic helicopter chasing, gunfire, and an out-of-control parasail.
Lopez sort of has two modes here: romantic earnestness or madcap zany. She is a pro at romantic earnestness, if uninspired. She’s more entertaining when she gets to be zany, like when she realizes she’s holding a live grenade or when she wrecks her wedding dress for ease of movement, wearing combat boots and holding a shotgun, saying “I wanted something less traditional.” Duhamel as Tom is also funnier when he acts goofy. But there is a lot of Tom and Darcy complaining about wedding plans, which is standard issue romantic comedy manufactured conflict.
Darcy’s divorced parents are still bickering like they’re married, Braga as the mom puts some extra bitterness into her lines. Cheech is basically at his funniest in the end credits scene. Hernandez as the sister Jamie is good for a few snarky asides as she tries to dodge a wedding guest she had a one night stand with which is complicated since they’re held hostage together. Carden as Harriet, the dad’s girlfriend, comes off as amusingly dopey, as does Kravitz as the ex, and both get more interesting as the movie goes on. As Tom’s dad, Coulter is a dim-witted father figure but he has some good reaction shots. The funniest cast member is Coolidge as Tom’s mother with some crazy moments, like when she tries to humanize herself to the captors in an overwrought dramatic way.
Shotgun Wedding has more bite than standard romantic comedies, probably because it’s on Amazon Prime streaming so it could be looser than trying to make money back at the box office. It ping-pongs between extremes, and the romantic stuff is cliché, but when it just acts weird and wild, it is entertaining.
Director: Jason Moore
Starring: Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel