die hard at a destination wedding”, is what I wrote in my notes looking at shotgun wedding, and what do you know? This phrase appears verbatim in marketing materials. It’s nice, isn’t it, when a movie pretty much delivers what it promises?

Instead of a retired cop, our unlikely heroes trapped in the party-turned-hostage situation are Darcy (Jennifer Lopez) and Tom (Josh Duhamel), whose wealthy Latino and left-wing white families in the Midwest, respectively, gather on a private island in the Philippines for their lavish wedding. They are deeply in love, but Tom was absorbed in every little detail of the big day, while freelance lawyer Darcy feels a chill nipping at her heels and never wanted a huge production from a wedding in the first place. The night before, she’s literally begging him to have sex (in a sweet and spicy scene that’ll have you saying “Do you know J-Lo is FIFTY-THREE?” out loud, whether you’re watching alone or not) while it’s about twinkling lights hot glued to the ground on pineapple centerpieces.

But just as their troubles come to a head in the morning, the island is overrun by pirates wearing apocalyptic arts and crafts masks and their ragtag group of guests held hostage in the resort’s swimming pool, and the bride and groom must fight their way across the island to stage a rescue. Naturally, amusingly violent mayhem ensues.

It has some of the sneaky, chaotic energy of game night, John Francis Daley’s underrated 2018 action farce with an ordinary, loving but “stuck” couple at their center that you really want to root for. But where game night wrings comedy from its most violent moments, shotgun wedding director Jason Moore (Perfect) doesn’t set the right tone in its attempts to make the danger feel genuine while keeping things lighthearted.

2023 is clearly the year of give Jennifer Coolidge a gun(Opens in a new window). Yeah, it’s fun to watch Jennifer Coolidge try to mow down bad guys with an assault rifle – only. But it’s not really fun watching the pirates spray bullets around the edges of a trapped crowd and terrified hostages/guests, screaming and moaning in very convincing fear. These moments tipped over the thin line the film manages to cross in other moments of real violence that are played for laughs, such as Tom’s shocked treatment after accidentally killing a pirate.

Credit: Prime Video

The film’s biggest crime, however, is the proportion of generally charismatic performers who are wasted or miscast. Comedy icon Cheech Marin is barely there as Darcy’s wealthy dad; D’Arcy Carden doesn’t quite have the malevolent etherity required for the role of his hippie girlfriend; there are sharply diminishing returns on an initially promising Lenny Kravitz as Darcy’s absurdly smooth and unwelcome ex; and a bubbly and promising B-romance between you are the worstby Desmin Borges and The stewardess‘s Callie Hernandez stutters and never resolves.

And then there’s Coolidge. Her entire career, not to mention her recent dream awards season, has shown that she can say literally anything and make it funny even when she’s just being herself, and Moore said(Opens in a new window) that she was free to improvise on set and she did. So why almost every line she has lands with a thud? It’s mostly the script’s fault, which reserves its funniest lines for everyone except her (her Wish.com(Opens in a new window) Vin Diesel line as she shoulders that machine gun? “Nobody fucks with my family!”) – but it also feels like she’s been locked into a generic role of an embarrassing mother who unforgivably smothers her natural irrepressibility.

Also unforgivable? Choosing her as Duhamel’s mother when she is barely 11 years his senior. Come on Hollywood.

Jennifer Coolidge, a white blonde woman with her hair in curlers.

She deserves so, so much better.
Credit: Prime Video

The action is mostly fun, though it does get a little shaggy towards the end (despite the most absurdly horrific comic death I’ve seen since violent night) and even Darcy and Tom’s unlikely action hero status is half-backed by their storylines (Tom is a minor league baseball player, for example, so despite being a bit clumsy, he’s fit and has good hand-eye coordination) while keeping things relatable for comedy reasons (Darcy faints at the sight of blood, and their cobbled together plans rarely go to plan).

It’s also refreshing to see two people in their 50s – admittedly very genetically blessed – as the central couple in a wedding movie, with really sexy chemistry, and having no conversations about babies or kids, especially given the title. And let’s face it, what we’re really here for is that unavoidable shot of Lopez with her ragged wedding dress artfully torn to the bone, carrying the titular gun. When he gets there, it’s hard not to be impressed. It’s her star power – and hugely underrated ability to lift mid-level material with her Marilyn-like brilliance and comedic timing – that saves shotgun wedding to be a complete failure.

shotgun wedding is now streaming on Prime Video.(Opens in a new window)