Premise: Music superstars Kat Valdez and Bastian are getting married before a global audience of fans. But when Kat learns, seconds before her vows, that Bastian has been unfaithful, she decides to marry Charlie, a stranger in the crowd, instead.
 

Sometimes a formulaic romcom can be fun and other times it can be excruciating in its obviousness. Marry Me, the new romantic comedy starring Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson, falls somewhere in the middle. The charm of Owen Wilson’s Charlie carries a little bit of cache when offset by the fame and spotlight of Lopez’s Kat. However, the film’s insistence on doing nothing unique with its concept and instead steering into the tropes of the genre is its ultimate downfall. Marry Me offers nothing to the romantic comedy canon that hasn’t already been explored to death in the late 90s and early aughts. It’s as formulaic as they come without much entertainment value.

Like a lot of romantic comedies, Marry Me is built on a ridiculous premise and takes place in a heightened reality where whimsical romance and social befuddlement is the cornerstone of everyday life. Following a very public discovery of her fiancé’s philandering moments before tying the not on stage, global superstar Kat (Jennifer Lopez) chooses to marry math teacher Charlie (Owen Wilson), a completely random single father in the audience, on the spot. The unconventional meet-cute leads to sparks amid a clash of lifestyles between the two.

Surprisingly, the trouble with Marry Me isn’t in the setup. Nor is it in the formulaic way the film unravels. Rather, it’s the film’s one dimensional characters and flimsy plot threads. Aside from the fish out of water neophyte thrust into social media limelight arc that Charlie goes through, his defining trait is how nice he is and how his marriage ended because he assumed his ex-wife didn’t want to be married anymore. There’s no further exploration of his marriage or parenting in the film. Instead, it’s just used as a catalyst for the expected third act drama between the leads. Likewise, Kat’s backstory involves multiple public marriages and complicated feelings for her ex Bastian (Maluma), whose infidelity has no bearing on the plot aside from simply jump-starting the film.

The movie plays it safe with these character backstories and avoids using them to explore the characters’ actual relationships. The romantic development of Kat and Charlie (shocker, they fall for each other as they get to know each other through their improvised publicity stunt) is the film’s biggest strength. The courtship of the pair is charming and rests on the likability of Wilson’s “aw shucks” performance and his chemistry with Lopez. But there’s nothing beneath that meet-cute facade and no depth to the characters as individuals outside of the pairing. This causes a strong disconnect with the film on an emotional level and that emptiness only serves to expose just how clichéd and formulaic the film is as a whole.

The supporting cast doesn’t offer much in the way of texture to the narrative, either. Sarah Silverman plays Parker, the bubbly guidance counselor of Charlie’s school and one of his best friends. She does what she can with a relatively thankless role that relies too heavily on the clichéd “wacky best friend in a romcom” trope. On the Kat side of things, John Bradley plays Collin, a member of Kat’s publicity team. His performance helps sell the relative realism of the premise. However, with him being on Kat’s payroll, it leaves a noticeable confidant void in Kat’s storyline when compared to the tight-knit friendship Charlie has with Parker. The film could have used this to its advantage to explore Kat’s public persona in comparison to her private life. Unfortunately, Marry Me is simply not interested in anything below the surface and it suffers for it.

Marry Me isn’t an offensively bad romantic comedy. It’s only real crime is being overly reliant on a tired formula and playing it too safe with scant characterization. The clash of the two leads’ wildly different lives holds some slight charm but doesn’t lead to anything meaningful on any deeper level. Within a genre as oversaturated as the romantic comedy, you’re better served seeking out a more fully realized title than Marry Me.

Marry Me opens in theaters and will stream exclusively on Peacock February 11th.

About the Writer: Matt Hurt is the creator of ObsessiveViewer.com. He also created, hosts, and produces The Obsessive ViewerAnthology, and Tower Junkies podcasts. He is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association and lives in Indianapolis with his cat Pizza Roll. 

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