For those waiting patiently to see Jennifer Lopez make her triumphant return to the cheesy romantic-comedy model in which she thrived, 2022’s Marry Me may feel like welcoming home a long-lost love. Firmly stuck in a different time, there is admittedly something comforting about this brand of movie. In the same breath though, I cannot help feeling that Lopez in particular can do so much better. There is one primary focus here (J-Lo’s music) and nearly every other facet falls limply by the wayside. Even still, Marry Me is not without its charms.
With a combined social reach of over 200 million people, Kat (Lopez) and Bastian (Maluma) are two music superstars embarking on a “Marry Me” Tour. The plan is to culminate in one big concert, during which the duo will get married live onstage in front of millions of people—it is an extravagant live stream event! Divorced math teacher Charlie (a woefully miscast Owen Wilson), dragged along to the concert by his daughter Lou (Chloe Coleman) and his close friend Parker (Sarah Silverman), is in for the shock of his life… Donned in a gown adorned with thousands of handmade crystals, Kat is about to take the stage for the ceremony when the unthinkable happens. Tabloid news of Bastian’s cheating exploits leaks online, leaving Kat embarrassed and flabbergasted.
Preaching about “if you want something different, you have to do something different,” Kat’s newfound mantra becomes the film’s thematic throughline. Kat decides to take the stage anyway despite what she has just learned, and in a spur of the moment, calls on a random man from the audience: Charlie! He comes onto the stage, agrees to marry her, and Kat takes the lead in giving Charlie a passionate onstage kiss. And just like that… the complete strangers are married! Can they make things work despite living drastically different lives?
Kat’s persona is suddenly thrown into a state of flux, with a varied media reaction that seems to poke fun at her impulsiveness. Her advisors urge her to break up with Charlie, so of course, Kat wants to manage the impossible. She wants to change the status quo, to introduce a new way for females: pick the guy, “keep our name,” and let him earn the right to stay! A spontaneous decision that leaves no recourse beyond Charlie and Kat getting to know one another first is really the primary objective. Bastian also forces his way back into the picture, because what better way to make one’s ex jealous than by going for someone considerably more schlumpy.
As in any romantic comedy, the film is only as good as the chemistry between the two leads. While Lopez and Wilson function perfectly fine on a basic level, I felt not a spark of passion as a real couple. Marry Me is constantly going out of its way to remind the audience how out of Kat’s league Charlie really is. Kat even describes him as “fine” at one point in the movie, as in “adequate.” The vibe between Lopez and Maluma is far more electric and tangible. I get that them being mismatched initially is the entire crux of our story, but there was never a moment here where I bought into them as genuine.
Every scenario is an open invitation for Jennifer Lopez to perform a song or intricate dance routine. Scantily clad backup dancers during a song about church is the very first window into Kat and her world. While I would generally love an entire movie filled with original Jennifer Lopez numbers, there needed to be a stronger foundation for which they existed. Kat as a character does not grow enough from the beginning to the ending, though she does of course have that stereotypical existential crisis moment that comes packaged with any existing rom-com.
Marry Me is a cute-enough movie for streaming. I don’t know that I can recommend seeing it in theaters, as I think the leads are ultimately mismatched, and the story is too threadbare for its own good. The humor is too broad, the romance too simple, and the conclusion too predictable to leave any lasting impression. There is no doubt in my mind that Jennifer Lopez will continue to put out great things. If her performance in 1997’s Selena taught me anything, it is that with the right material, Lopez can really go the distance.
Marry Me pops the question when it premieres in theaters and Peacock TV on Friday, February 11th.