Review: ‘Marry Me’ tests romcom’s limits

It’s shameless romantic fluff and you won’t believe a word of it.

February 11, 2022, 1:45 PM
PHOTO: Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson in a scene from "Marry Me."
Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson in a scene from "Marry Me."
Barry Wetcher/Universal Pictures via AP

It’s shameless romantic fluff and you won’t believe a word of it. But “Marry Me,” in theaters and streaming on Peacock, may be your default choice for a date night movie on Valentine’s weekend. Jennifer Lopez works real hard to convince you love is the answer.

Playing a character not unlike herself, Lopez stars as Kat Valdez, a megastar with 200 million followers on social media and a staff that caters to her every need. In reality, Lopez has revived her romance with former “Gigli” costar Ben Affleck. On screen, Kat is planning to marry her duet partner Bastian, played by Colombian singer Maluma, 28, in his so-called acting debut.

PHOTO: Jennifer Lopez, right, and Maluma in a scene from "Marry Me."
Jennifer Lopez, right, and Maluma in a scene from "Marry Me."
Barry Wetcher/Universal Pictures via AP

Things go sideways just before the wedding goes globally livestreamed on stage. That’s when Kat catches Bastian (short for Sebastian) getting it on with her assistant. What to do? Pick a stranger in the audience and marry him. I told you the plot is hard to swallow.

The stranger, played by Owen Wilson, 53, in his patented aw-shucks style, is Charlie Gilbert, a divorced math teacher with a 12-year-old daughter (Chloe Coleman). Both attend the wedding concert at the urging of Charlie’s LBGTQ bestie Parker (Sarah Silverman). Result: chaos.

Why would the relatively sane Charlie submit to a publicity stunt of a wedding? Mostly because there’d be no movie without it. Of course he thinks that Kat is “beautiful,” which the script has him say way too much. Like we need reminding. At 52, JLo is a forever wow.

Naturally, Kat and Charlie fall in love. Romcoms ask us to believe the impossible. But the unlikely match of Kat and Charlie is pushing it. She’s a hit with his mathletes. And even her fussy manager Colin, played by John Bradley of “Game of Thrones,” thinks Charlie is a decent guy.

He is. And that’s a problem. Charlie may be a wiz at math, but he and Kat would fail Chemistry 101. There’s no spark in their union, despite the strain of the script and director Kat Coiro (“Dead to Me”) to generate a vibe similar to Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner in “The Bodyguard.” Not gonna happen. Not even nine musical numbers can stop this knockoff from being buried in a blanket of bland.

PHOTO: Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson in a scene from "Marry Me."
Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson in a scene from "Marry Me."
Barry Wetcher/Universal Pictures via AP

“I’ve never been nominated for anything,” says Kat. Is Lopez referring to Oscar foolishly failing to nominate her dynamite dramatic performance in “Hustlers?” Maybe. But Kat’s poor little rich girl act—she cries when TV hosts joke about her —drifts dangerously close to self pity.

The movie teases the line between reality and fantasy. But to what purpose? Can Kat live without cameras tracking her every move on Insta? Can Charlie survive in her media shadow? Can they find a middle ground where they both can breathe? Better question: who cares?

Lopez and Wilson, who first worked together in the absurd 1997 creature feature “Anaconda,” both know their way around wedding comedies—she with “The Wedding Planner” and he with “Wedding Crashers.” But “Marry Me” offers the stranded stars little reason to celebrate since all they can do is juggle romcom cliches that have long worn out their welcome.

Will “Marry Me” still get the job done for your Valentine? As Charlie tells his math students: “If you sit in the question, the answer finds you.” My advice? Find a theatre showing the recently Oscar nominated “The Worst Person in the World.” It’s the real deal in romcom sparkle and substance. “Marry Me” is a pale excuse of an imitation. You have your answer.

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