(2022) Romantic Comedy (Universal) Jennifer Lopez, Owen Wilson, Maluma, John Bradley, Sarah Silverman, Chloe Coleman, Michelle Buteau, Khalil Middleton, Kat Cunning, Taliyah Whitaker, Diego Lucano, Brady Noon, Connor Noon, Ryan Foust, Léah Jiménez Zelaya, Tristan-Lee Edwards, Scarlett Earls, Olivia Chun, Jim Kaplan, Jameela Jamil, Hoda Kotb. Directed by Kat Coiro
Rom-coms have their own peculiar kind of logic. They play on our romantic fantasies of finding true love despite apparently insurmountable odds. One of the most popular sub-genres is what I call the Pretty Woman effect, in which a ridiculously wealthy and/or famous person falls for an ordinary person from an entirely different world, and we get to see those worlds collide. But, like all rom-coms, true love eventually prevails – and that shouldn’t be a spoiler to any fan of the genre.
Pop star Kat Valdez (Lopez) came up from the streets of Brooklyn to become an international pop sensation, whose every move is chronicled on social media. She is about to hit a publicity bonanza; her hit song “Marry Me,” performed with her fiancée Bastian (Maluma) has spawned a huge tour, at the conclusion of which she and Bastian will perform the song together live, and then have their wedding ceremony onstage, live-streamed to more than 20 million viewers and an in-house audience at the venue.
In that audience is Charlie (Wilson), a middle school math teacher who doesn’t even want to be there. He got tickets to the exclusive event through the school’s guidance counselor Parker (Silverman) – who also happens to be his best friend – whose two guests had bailed on her. Charlie’s daughter Lou (Coleman) is a huge fan, so he agreed to go for her sake.
But just before the ceremony is to take place, word races through social media that Bastian cheated on Kat – with her assistant, no less – and the devastated bride-to-be comes onstage with a tearful excoriation of her love life, which had been carefully planned, only to end up with three divorces and now this never-happened. When she sees Charlie holding his daughter’s sign that says “Marry Me,” she is inspired in her grief and pain to propose to him. Charlie, thrust into the spotlight unwillingly, goes with the moment, not wanting to humiliate the already-devastated pop star further and says yes. The two are then married.
Kat’s manager (Bradley) wants to make sure this is spun in a way that doesn’t make Kat look more psycho than she already does, so they convince Charlie to hang in there and play husband for a few months, at which time she would make a generous donation to his school. He agrees…for the kids, of course. And if you know rom-coms at all, you know how this one will go.
The formula is so ingrained that Da Queen and I even before the movie started had bet that certain things would happen – and every last one of them did. To say that this movie is predictable is to underestimate predictability; unless you’ve never seen a romantic comedy before, you are just as likely to figure out how this movie will turn out and what steps it will take to get there.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing if the filmmakers pull off the steps with a certain amount of style (they do) and the leads are interesting and root-worthy (they are). There’s nothing here that’s surprising or innovative, but Coiro is a good director who knows that she’s making a movie written by algorithm; rather than fight it, she goes with it and even revels in it to a certain degree. I’m not a particular fan of Lopez, but she’s essentially playing herself here, or at least a version of her, and so she makes the character at least reasonably charming. The soundtrack is mostly performed by her (and in duet with Colombian pop star Maluma) and is fine if you like modern top 40 music, which to be honest I don’t, but that doesn’t mean that the songs are bad for what they are. It’s just not my taste. Anywho, getting back on track, Wilson has relied on a certain amount of frayed-around-the-edges charm since his career began, and he in many ways is the best thing about the movie, delivering the kind of performance we have come to expect and appreciate from him.
It can be said that both actors are a bit long in the tooth for their roles (both are in their fifties, playing characters who appear to be in their thirties) but that doesn’t really matter; they may be middle-aged at this point in their careers, but they have the experience to pull off this kind of movie without putting up much of a sweat. The result is a movie that has enough charm to see it through, but not enough to make you realize that you’ve seen this before and done better.
The movie is currently playing in theaters but is also available on the Peacock streaming service. Choose your method of seeing it according to how willing you are to drive to your local multiplex and see it.
REASONS TO SEE: Wilson has the kind of warmth to carry the film and Lopez has enough charm to get audiences to root for the couple.
REASONS TO AVOID: Encumbered by too many rom-com cliches.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some mild profanity and sexually suggestive material.
TRIVIAL PURSUITS: Believe it or not, this is the first time Lopez has used her own singing voice in a film; the only other film she sang onscreen in was Selena in which she lip-synched the songs of the title character.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Peacock
CRITICAL MASS: As of 2/18/22: Rotten Tomatoes: 58% positive reviews; Metacritic: 50/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Music and Lyrics
FINAL RATING: 5.5/10
NEXT: The Highwaymen