“Not everything is about money!” exclaims bride-to-be Darcy at the rehearsal dinner for her idyllic-looking island wedding in the Philippines — a rebuke to her multi-millionaire father Robert, who wishes she’d let him pay to make the whole affair even more luxe. Perhaps she means it. Darcy claims she wanted to elope to avoid the whole foofaraw, while her “groomzilla” Tom, in a pleasing reversal of gender stereotypes, obsesses over table settings. When their elegant nuptials are crashed by a gang of ransom-seeking pirates, her instincts are proven correct — though as played by a typically immaculate Jennifer Lopez, she doesn’t seem like someone who craves the simple life. “Shotgun Wedding” may begin by separating rich from rich, though as the body count mounts in this oddly unpalatable romantic comedy, such distinctions fall away: In the face of impoverished, gun-toting Asian criminals, well-off Americans must mostly prevail.
If the once-ubiquitous romcom has lately become something of a legacy genre — upheld by seasoned queens of the form, like Julia Roberts in “Ticket to Paradise” and now Lopez, immediately following last year’s “Marry Me” with another wed-com variation — director Jason Moore (“Pitch Perfect”) looks to update matters with a dose of brawny, bloody action hijinks. Yet it’s not the film’s cornball romantic trappings that feel out of step with the moment so much as its inadvertent class politics: Sometimes feeling like an episode of “The White Lotus” directed by Sylvester Stallone, “Shotgun Wedding” reverses the eat-the-rich sentiment recently popularized by that TV phenomenon, along with last year’s caustic One Percent satires “Triangle of Sadness” and “The Menu.” This time, the rich folks fight back. Perhaps some viewers will cheer them on.
For the rest of us, “Shotgun Wedding” is a curious viewing experience: an ostensibly easy-breezy J.Lo vehicle that’s only a hair more pleasant to watch than Michel Franco’s nihilistic both-sidesy hostage thriller “New Order.” Indeed, it could barely be more disconcerting if originally cast leading man Armie Hammer had stayed the course. His replacement, Josh Duhamel, may have scant chemistry with his onscreen fiancée, but his affable blandness at least acts as a sort of balm in proceedings otherwise heavy on cognitive dissonance: The usual rules of romantic comedy dictate that it’s hard to focus on the central couple’s minor relationship hitches when they’re busy taking the boots off the baby-faced gunman they’ve just slain.
It’s Darcy and Tom’s cold-feet conflict on the morning of the wedding that saves them from the pirates’ clutches in the first place. While they’re off squabbling elsewhere in the resort — triggered by the unexpected arrival of her dishy old flame Sean (Lenny Kravitz) at the event — the waiting guests are captured by the seaborne marauders, who will release them only in exchange for the eight-figure fortune that Robert (Cheech Marin) initially denies he has. It’s left to the unhappy couple to stage a rescue, stalking the island and taking down the pirates one by one with a mixture of grenades and gumption — all while respectively wearing a blush-pink tux and a floaty goddess gown the approximate size of a beach hut.
Not a world away from the urbanites-out-of-range setup for last year’s delightful Sandra Bullock-Channing Tatum starrer “The Lost City,” this all yields some lightly amusing physical comedy, but neither Moore’s direction nor Mark Hammer’s script lean enough into the absurdity of the situation for the film to take flight. Minus any satirical streak in the writing, meanwhile, the story’s more violent turns don’t play as darkly comic, but merely distasteful: A key twist in the film hinges on Westerners’ inability to distinguish between different southeast Asian nationalities, and passes entirely without comment.
When it sticks to the trivial stuff, “Shotgun Wedding” is at least capably mediocre, coasting on its coastal scenery — actually the Dominican Republic, and brightly shot by David Lynch collaborator Peter Deming, not that you’d ever guess — and Lopez’s reliably sparky screen presence. It’s intermittently stolen, however, by everyone’s favorite Jennifer of the moment, Coolidge, as the gaffe-prone mother of the groom. Not handed great lines by Hammer, J.Cool has the gift, shared by few in this ensemble, of making them funny anyway: Her instruction to a search party to “check all ditches” gains a laugh purely on the strength of her dizzy, mushmouthed delivery, as does her self-introduction as “Realtor of the Year, 1998 and 2007.”
Would that such spry comic performers as Marin and D’Arcy Carden had such moments, or that the great Sonia Braga, as Darcy’s chilly Brazilian mom, were as generously used — though she at least lends the most lilting vocal to the weirdest of many weird setpieces, a group singalong to Edwin McCain’s mawkish ’90s hit “I’ll Be.” “I’ll be love’s suicide,” never a great lyric to begin with, hardly seems appropriate here: In this grisly, tonally wayward exercise, love appears to be out for everyone else’s blood.