The most clever thing about Jennifer Lopez’s latest film, “Shotgun Wedding,” is its title. The movie has a wedding and shotguns. The two dissimilar items are thrown together like peanut butter and chocolate in a Reese’s cup. Never mind that the actual definition of a shotgun wedding is nowhere to be found in the plot. In fact, this wedding has been meticulously planned, and nobody’s pregnant.
Regardless, I’m a sucker for a good old-fashioned play on words. It shows a confidence on the part of the filmmakers that I wished extended to their filmmaking. Director Jason Moore and writer Mark Hammer have fashioned an action movie/romantic comedy hybrid that’s too violent for comedy fans and not thrilling enough for thrill seekers. It’s not romantic at all, despite the best efforts of Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel.
“Shotgun Wedding” is on Amazon Prime Video starting Jan. 27.
After last year’s “Marry Me,” J.Lo is kicking off this year with another privileged pretty people’s wedding picture. I hope this doesn’t constitute a trend, unless 2024 brings us “M3GAN-in-Law.” Killer blonde robot plus Jenny from the Block equals a guaranteed four-star rating from your humble reviewer.
Wish fulfillment aside, I’m required to tell you about Darcy Rivera (Lopez) and Tom Fowler (Duhamel), the bride and groom who decide to have their destination wedding on an island in the Philippines. Actually, the entire enterprise has been compulsively orchestrated by Tom down to the most minute detail. Even the location was his idea, after he ignores Darcy’s desire to elope. It’s nice to see a groomzilla in a movie for a change, even if his actions are given a sympathetic excuse no movie would extend to a bridezilla.
Along for the ride are Darcy’s divorced, rich parents Renata and Robert (Sonia Braga and Cheech Marin, respectively — what a lineage!) and Tom’s folks Larry and Carol (Steve Coulter and Jennifer Coolidge). Unbeknownst to his daughter, Robert has also invited Darcy’s hunky ex-fiancé, Sean (Lenny Kravitz). Sean crashes the rehearsal dinner hanging from a helicopter and wearing an unbuttoned shirt, sending waves of inferiority through Tom.
Tom has bigger problems than not being able to measure up to the man Darcy dated before him. There are pirates on this island, something that the proprietors of the wedding resort failed to mention. While the bride and groom are conveniently elsewhere, these ruffians take everyone hostage, holding them for monetary ransom. So little thought is put into this plot development that the pirates aren’t even given proper names in the credits.
When Tom discovers this rather revolting development, he’s as upset as the Philippines travel bureau must’ve been after it saw this movie. It’s up to him and Darcy to save the day while parroting some of the same comic scenarios that befell Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum in last year’s very similar — and superior — jungle actioner “The Lost City.” That movie had a villain worth hissing at, played by Daniel Radcliffe.
Far too much of “Shotgun Wedding” consists of Darcy and Tom bickering. It’s supposed to be romantic banter, but the dialogue is so strained and stilted you keep hoping that one of the pirates sent to find them will show up. When they do, they unleash torrents of machine gun fire that the betrothed barely dodge before fighting back with fire, grenades, and a skull-cracking rock.
The funniest moments come from the supporting cast. Braga is excellent, so full of rage she can barely look at her ex-husband or the woman he’s dating. She and Marin make fun comic foils. And Coolidge wrings a few laughs from the “White Lotus”-style persona that’s wearing thin as of late.
Though the violence is tame by R-rated standards, you should be aware that it’s still a tad gory. One pirate spends most of the movie with half of his scalp gruesomely burned off, and another character suffers a graphic cut that’s played for blood-soaked Monty Python-style laughs but may still gross you out.
After her Oscar-worthy turn in 2019′s “Hustlers,” I hoped Lopez would continue to take equally complex roles, ones that reminded us of how good an actor she can be. Movies like 1997′s “Selena” and 1998′s “Out of Sight” showed that she has the talent to pull off a wide variety of scenes, including ones where she engaged in believable, sexy banter with her leading man. Duhamel doesn’t have the chemistry George Clooney had with Lopez in “Out of Sight,” though he’s equally game to go toe-to-toe with his leading lady.
Still, like the nameless pirates, the forced action scenes hold the romantic comedy hostage. And “Shotgun Wedding” doesn’t pay the ransom to free it.
Directed by Jason Moore. Written by Mark Hammer. Starring Jennifer Lopez, Josh Duhamel, Sonia Braga, Cheech Marin, Jennifer Coolidge, Steve Coulter, Lenny Kravitz. On Amazon Prime Video starting Jan. 27. 100 minutes. R (gory violence, Lenny Kravitz’s cleavage)
Odie Henderson is the Boston Globe's film critic.