A film review by Craig J. Koban May 25, 2022

MARRY ME jj
 

2022, PG-13, 112 mins.

Jennifer Lopez as Kat Valdez  /  Owen Wilson as Charlie Gilbert  /  Utkarsh Ambudkar as Coach Manny  /  Maluma as Bastian  /  John Bradley as Collin Calloway  /  Sarah Silverman as Parker Debbs  /  Chloe Coleman as Lou Gilbert

Directed by Kat Coiro  /  Written by Harper Dill, John Rogers, and Tami Sagher, based on the graphic novel by Remy "Eisu" MokhtarBobby Crosby
 

 

 

 

Romcoms don't have to do much to win me over.  

They really don't.  

Even when they're crushingly predictable and meander from one unavoidable beat to the next, if the two lead stars are (a) appealing and (b) have sizeable on-screen chemistry then that's usually enough to placate me and allow audiences to develop a rooting interest in the love conquers all story.  

The main issue that I had with MARRY ME was not that it doesn't have two easily agreeable stars in Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson, but rather that they seem oddly mismatched here, not to mention that the film's overall premise is as categorically ludicrous and hard to swallow as they come.  Plus, MARRY ME seems like such a thinly veiled vanity project for JLo in terms of pushing her music career even further and trying to aggressively sell herself as star with a true heart of gold.  Oy vey. 

Lopez plays Kat Valdez (essentially a version of her real life self), a gargantuan music star that has attained popularity the world over.  She's about to hit a grand slam social media home run by performing her latest meteoric single "Marry Me" (hey...that's the title of the film!!!!) alongside her husband-to-be in fellow musician Bastian (Maluma) at a prestigious event being seen by millions of their fans around the world.  This is the ultimate power couple that's had their celeb lives plastered all over the Internet for their fans to witness, which makes this pre-nuptials duet a must-see event.  Unfortunately for Kat, her manager in Collin (John Bradley) has to give the star some deeply distressing news right before the event: Bastian is revealed to be a creep adulterer, meaning that their performance will ultimately come off as a total sham when word of his infidelity breaks.  Realizing that she can't possibly be with Bastian anymore, she very abruptly breaks up with him on stage and - in a purely nonsensical move - randomly points at a spectator in the audience and announces that she'll marry him instead...and right then and there. 

The everyman in question is Wilson's Charlie, who's a lowly, but passionate math teacher that's attending the concert with his Kat-worshipping daughter in Lou (Chloe Coleman).  Being immediately put on the spot, Charlie acquiesces to the mega-star's impromptu proposal, thinking that it's all a bit of make-believe to get the fans over.  What he soon realizes is that - whoopsies! - the pair get straight-up legally married on stage in front a hell of a lot of witnesses, leaving the poor sap with the startling reality of what has happened.  Kat and her manager sense that this shotgun wedding to a relative unknown nobody could help lead to a positive image campaign, so she politely asks Charlie to remain married to her for three months and go along for the ride.  Charlie seems reticent, that is until his daughter and fellow teacher BFF (Sarah Silverman) matter-of-factly inform him that he'd be nuts to decline the offer to hang out with one of the richest, sexiest, most desired, and beloved stars in the world.  He agrees, and the new couple embark on a public relations tour, with him being introduced to her extravagant lifestyle while becoming a newfound Instaceleb all on his own.  As Kat gets absorbed in Charlie's life of relative normalcy, he has to acclimate himself to being constantly followed by paparazzi and having his once guarded and private life being live-streamed everywhere for everyone to see.  That, and - gasp! - this is all getting in the way of him prepping for his class' very important "Mathalon" to come.   

 

 

It's rare for a romcom - or any genre of film, for that matter - to so hopelessly lose me on a premise level so early on as MARRY ME does here.  I know...and I get it...this is supposed to be some sort of fairy tale/male wish fulfillment fantasy (what regular dude wouldn't want to be instantly married to an insanely attractive, limitlessly wealthy, and uber popular star?), and this very idea here has seen the light of day before in films like, for example, NOTTING HILL (which involved a female blockbuster movie star falling in love with a bookstore owner).  Both NOTTING HILL and MARRY ME have contrived storylines, yes, and both involve a male commoner trying to come to grips with the onslaught of fame, which grows to stymie his love for the celeb.  I think the thing that separates NOTTING HILL from this, though, is that the former's plot involving the couple's meet-cute and ensuing romance felt more organic.  In MARRY ME we're supposed to by the concept that this jaded celebrity - about to be embarrassed on a massive scale by her equally famous fiancÚ - would just arbitrarily pluck Charlie out of a crowd and actually marry him.  To be fair and to reiterate, there's nothing inherently wrong with a romcom about an average person and a celeb becoming attracted to and falling in love with one another (it's as old as CINDERELLA).  Unfortunately, Charlie and Kat's union is artificial and constructed, and almost never believable in any shape or form.  It's the furthest thing from fairy tale fantasy; the film is really about a rich and powerful star with impulse control issues.  What's romantic about that? 

But wait...Kat is really a sweet tempered and awfully nice lady despite her fame and affluence.  It seems like Lopez - who's a great actress when given the right material (look at early career work in OUT OF SIGHT and THE CELL or recent career-rejuvenating roles in HUSTLERS) - is trying really, really, really hard here to use the Kat character to remind audiences that - gosh darn it - she's just like everyone else despite her wealth and fame.  It's almost as if this romcom is a near two-hour infomercial peddling Jlo's pop star street cred (which hardly need embellishing in this day and age) while preaching how wholesome she is despite her celebrity.  MARRY ME becomes less about its unlikely lovers in the making and instead seems more focused on JLo's brand and pushing it to the masses.  That's what made MARRY ME ring so utterly hollow to me, if not shameless.  But Lopez is decent in the film, as is her co-star in a perpetually affable Wilson, who can inhabit humble nice guys with relative ease and perhaps better than most.  MARRY ME achieves one status quo trait for romcoms: The stars here are good and are likeable, but only an individual basis.  Wilson/Lopez don't really work as a couple, though, on screen and don't have much in the way of sizzling chemistry.  They seem like two people stuck in the friendzone (which is fine, BTW), but I didn't buy that they would become lovers.  At all. 

Director Kat Coiro sugarcoats this premise too much that I got a cavity watching the film.  MARRY ME has so many of its potentially rough edges smoothed over that I spent more time contemplating what  it could have done with the whole notion of a celeb engaging in career saving mode by marrying a school teacher.  Charlie is so nice...and Kat is so nice...they treat each other nicely...they treat others nicely...this movie is just so...well...nice.  I understand that this is a neatly packaged piece of Valentine's Day release programming to cater to the couples crowd on that annual day (complete with music numbers to boot), but MARRY ME's narrative feels equally programmed to hit painfully predictable beats and subplots (obviously, that bastard Bastion will absolutely figure in heavily in the plot and serve as an obstacle for Kat and Charlie's budding romance, which leads to second thoughts for one, a hasty break-up, and then a pre-end title credits reconciliation).  Maybe this film would have worked more unexpectedly better as a piece of scathing commentary about pop star culture and allowed Lopez to skewing her very finely tailored image (the cynical nature of Kat's publicity stunt could have really been exploited in a whole different light with just the light nervy director or stars).  Or, maybe even more intriguing, imagine if the roles were reversed and Wilson was the celeb and JLo was the nobody.  The ironic casting would have made for an intriguing dynamic and for the actors to play against type.   

Alas, MARRY ME doesn't have any time whatsoever to compellingly push the romcom envelop.  It's not interested in thoroughly examining its bizarre union or the whirlwind of emotions that surround it.  And it's not too interested in being a timely portrait of social media obsessed fans and the social media addicted stars they savor for daily.  This film is a hilariously obvious mass marketed product (BTW - just look at the sheer number of plugs for NBC programming here...and remember that MARRY ME was released simultaneously in cinemas and on NBC's own Peacock streaming service).  Beyond the appeal of its stars, the whole film is pretty dopey and silly and succumbs to stale formulas.  

Skip this and just watch NOTTING HILL.  You'll thank me later. 

  H O M E