The Pitch: It’s a tale as old as time — ultra-famous star finds herself in a situation where she gets to encounter a “real guy,” and is so charmed by him that an unlikely love story is born. Okay, maybe it’s not as old as time, but the premise has been around for a few decades, and it’s only fair that Jennifer Lopez, a loyal soldier in the fight to keep romantic comedies alive, get her shot at it.
The World’s Most Public Meet Cute: Marry Me has one major advantage going for it: With the full wattage of Lopez’s star power turned up to 11, no heavy lifting is required in convincing the audience that “Kat Valdez” is a huge global celebrity, with a Vitamix promotional deal and a massive live-streamed concert coming up to promote her new single “Marry Me,” which will also serve as her wedding to Bastian (Maluma), a fellow pop star and her current boyfriend.
Unfortunately, moments before she goes on stage in a poofy-as-hell wedding gown, Kat learns that video of Bastian cheating on her with her assistant has been posted online, and after a very long speech about breaking out of established patterns, Kat happens to see Charlie (Owen Wilson) standing in the crowd, holding a “Marry Me” sign… and takes that as a signal to say “Why not?”
The reason Charlie is at the concert is that his co-worker Parker (Sarah Silverman, locked into “supportive best friend to a rom-com lead” mode like the pro she is) convinced him to come with her and bring his tweenage daughter Lou (Chloe Coleman), who is currently reaching an age where she finds her father to be very uncool.
Getting married to a pop star in front of millions of people does change Lou’s opinion of him, but Charlie doesn’t really have time to appreciate that initially, thanks to being thrust into Kat’s world of fame.
While some people might think “I made one wild decision in the heat of the moment, let’s just quietly make this go away,” Kat decides to double down on her choice rather than face public embarassment, and she and Charlie agree on getting to know each other a bit before annulling the marriage. (Can’t be embarrassed on the ‘Gram, after all.)
Because Charlie is an aggressively affable (and divorced) math teacher, he’s on board with that plan, and thanks to his charms and her good heart, love ensues… Until, that is, Charlie’s insecurities about Kat’s status and lingering connection to Bastian flare up, and… well, you’ve seen a romantic comedy before.
And Because You’ve Seen a Rom-Com Before… You know that the key to rom-coms, the parts that make them unforgettable, aren’t the big sweeping gestures, but the intimate little moments that make these characters feel alive and in love with each other.
Marry Me, with a runtime of nearly two hours, does include a lot of these moments, including Kat getting to know Charlie’s students and daughter, Charlie offering a supportive shoulder on the red carpet for an event, and the two of them going on a date to a school dance he’s chaperoning.
These are the moments which are meant to confirm the chemistry between the two leads, which is why it’s a bit unfortunate that Lopez and Wilson (let’s be clear, two of the most engaging movie stars currently working today), never quite connect on the level you’d hope for.
The problem perhaps comes down to Charlie’s aforementioned aggressive affability: When amplified by all the film’s trappings, including a cute daughter and a very cute bulldog puppy, Wilson’s natural charisma loses some of the grit that has made him such a compelling lead in other films, including rom-coms, dragging him into the uncanny valley of nice-ness.
Neither he or Kat really have much in the way of flaws, beyond occasionally making weird choices about when and where to marry somebody, and so when the inevitable conflict arises between the two of them, it’s completely without teeth — which is a problem, because there’s no catharsis without prior crisis.