Marry Me (United States, 2022)

February 11, 2022
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Marry Me Poster

Once upon a time, there was an actress named Jennifer Lopez, whose performances in films like Out of Sight and Selena opened eyes and excited comment with their depth and authenticity. But Lopez wasn’t a one-trick pony and, as her multimedia popularity blossomed, her interest in honing her craft as a movie performer waned. She left “Jennifer Lopez” behind in favor of “J-Lo.” The personality became more important than the actress. In Marry Me, we catch glimpses of the woman whose screen charisma charmed viewers all those years ago, but portions of the movie seem more like a product placement for the J-Lo brand. This doesn’t derail the movie but it’s an unwanted distraction.

The concept of a romance between an “average” person and a superstar has been attractive for as long as love stories have been told. (Isn’t that essentially what Cinderella is?) The most apt recent comp for Marry Me (which is based on the webcomic written by Bobby Crosby and illustrated by Remy “Eisu” Mokhtar) might be Notting Hill, in which a bookseller (played by Hugh Grant) enters into a relationship with one of the world’s biggest movie stars (Julia Roberts) and comes to recognize that dating her means entering her orbit – something he’s unready for. In Marry Me, the Hugh Grant role is assumed by Owen Wilson, whose Charlie Gilbert is a kindergarten teacher. The Media Darling is Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez) and, while the two canoodle and make small talk behind closed doors, their every public step is recorded, logged, and posted to the Internet. Kat takes the lack of privacy for granted. She and her manager, Collin Calloway (John Bradley), have found a way to use it. For Charlie, however, it’s potentially a bridge too far. Although his best friend, Parker (Sarah Silverman), takes to it like a fish to water, the same isn’t true for Charlie’s tween daughter, Lou (Chloe Coleman).

Marry Me stumbles at the outset with a “meet cute” so preposterous that it challenges the typically high suspension-of-disbelief barrier one expects from a rom-com. In Notting Hill, it was simple and believable. In Marry Me, it’s beyond contrived. After introducing Kat as an amalgamation of Lopez, Britney Spears, and Kim Kardashian, the movie sets up the singer’s latest publicity grab: she and her main squeeze, equally popular entertainer Bastian (Maluma), will get married at the climax of a globally televised concert, after singing their mega-popular duet, “Marry Me,” to one another. It’s all set up and 20 million people are watching. In attendance are Charlie and his daughter, who have been gifted with the scarce tickets by Parker. Just as the marriage moment is about to happen, video evidence of Bastian’s unfaithfulness hits social media and spreads so fast that Kat becomes aware of it before she can say her vows. In full view of the cameras, she rebuffs Bastian and instead searches the crowd for a stranger to replace him. That stranger is Charlie and, in a whirlwind, he finds himself husband to one of the most visible women on the planet. And the strangeness is just beginning.

Lopez is at home in the role. After all, Kat is about 50% drawn from her real image. She sells that effortlessly and falls back on her days as “Jennifer Lopez” for the quieter scenes, which offer the movie’s best moments. (My favorites: Kat’s initial visit to Charlie’s apartment and the “Camelot”-tinged night of/morning after their first sexual encounter.) Owen Wilson has no trouble portraying the humble, slightly nerdy nice guy – a far cry from the hell-raisers he once played at the height of his popularity. Lopez and Wilson have an unforced, low-key chemistry that smolders instead of catching fire – but that’s a reasonable temperature for a PG-13 movie that hints at sex rather than showing it.

The supporting cast is, as they say, a mixed bag. Maluma, the Columbian singer, acquits himself adequately in his feature debut. The screenplay wisely doesn’t force him to do much heavy lifting in the acting department, instead allowing him to play to his strengths: charm, sex appeal, physicality, and performing in front of an audience. As Lou, 11-year old Chloe Coleman (her age when the movie was filmed; she’s now 13) is a firecracker. John Bradley recovers from his disastrous appearance in Moonfall, bringing some humanity to an underdeveloped role. Sarah Silverman’s turn as the “wacky” best friend, is a misfire – annoying, grating, and rarely displaying the acidic edge that is Silverman’s bread-and-butter.

Romantic comedy fans are likely to be more tolerant of some of the movie’s failings than I am. From a purely romantic perspective, it delivers the goods. We see two photogenic people fall in love and root for them to overcome the various (sometimes seemingly insurmountable) obstacles that seek to impede their love story. Marry Me isn’t good enough to transcend the limitations of the genre but it’s a passably enjoyable throwback to the heyday of rom-coms.

Marry Me (United States, 2022)

Run Time: 1:52
U.S. Release Date: 2022-02-11
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity, Sexual Content, Drugs)
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1