The “romantic action” genre is not new; films like “Killers” and “The Lost City” show that with the right balance of romance, action and comedy, this genre is not only possible to produce but can be done well. Jennifer Lopez (“Hustlers”) and Josh Duhamel’s (“Transformers”) latest film, “Shotgun Wedding,” unfortunately proves that this tricky mix of genres isn’t always successful. “Shotgun Wedding” is at its best when it leans into the action comedy genre with violent humor and ridiculous action rather than the forced romance between its leads.
On the eve of the titular wedding, we are introduced to Lopez’s Darcy and Duhamel’s Tom, who are not on the same page regarding the wedding. Tom wants a big, fancy (but still cheap) wedding, while Darcy wants an intimate ceremony for just the two of them. Their families increase the strain between the couple, and Darcy’s ex showing up at the rehearsal is the cherry on top. All of the tension comes to a head the morning of the big day, when the two have a huge argument about whether getting married is right for them. Their wedding does end up getting postponed, though not because of their fight — the wedding is hijacked by armed pirates, putting a damper on the festivities. While the guests are held hostage, Darcy and Tom try to stop the pirates from wreaking further havoc.
It’s always a risk to have the main couple of a romantic comedy together at the start. Darcy and Tom are supposed to be in love, but it’s hard to believe this because we don’t get to see them fall for each other. Additionally, the most romantic moments in the movie happen in the middle of shootouts and explosions — like when the two share a heart-to-heart as Tom kills a pirate to save Darcy — making the love between them feel even less believable. Maybe they can withstand the pirate attack, but I wouldn’t bet on the marriage lasting long after the movie ends. They’re just too different, and without the action and excitement, they are likely to go back to their old ways of constant bickering. Movies like “Killers,” “The Lost City” or any other great action romance were able to master the genre because the relationship felt worth fighting for — one the audience could believe in. Tom and Darcy have no such relationship.
I can almost look past the terrible romance because of the movie’s action and comedy elements. The humor is dark: Darcy sets pirates on fire, Tom cuts his hand open on a meat slicer and they both drop grenades from the sky. But the absolute absurdity of these violent moments makes them laughable. The film’s biggest, best surprise is Jennifer Coolidge’s (“White Lotus”) presence as Tom’s mother, Carol. She is pure, unabashed Jennifer Coolidge, and the movie is all the better for it. If you combined Coolidge’s characters from “A Cinderella Story” and “Legally Blonde,” you’d get close to Carol — she’s a little goofy, kind of oblivious and entirely hilarious. When she gets her hands on a machine gun to threaten the pirates, it’s probably the best part of the movie.
Two other side characters who bring a lot to the film are Darcy’s ex-fiance Sean (Lenny Kravitz, “The Hunger Games”) and Darcy’s father’s new girlfriend Harriet (D’Arcy Carden, “The Good Place”). These two characters are caricatures, nowhere near realistic or believable, but in romcoms, that isn’t always a flaw. Sean and Harriet are people to laugh at in a harmless way. One of the final scenes of “Shotgun Wedding” includes both Kravtiz and Carden, and it’s the perfect combination of funny and bizarre.
If you’re able to look past the failures of this romcom’s “rom” aspect and instead focus on the action, you’ll probably enjoy “Shotgun Wedding.” You can’t take it too seriously, but it’s sure to make you laugh.
Daily Arts Writer Sabriya Imami can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.