'Marry Me' Review: Jennifer Lopez Shines in Social Media Infused Fairy Tale

Four Star Rating: ***
Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Owen Wilson, Maluma, John Bradley, Chloe Coleman, Sarah Silverman
Director: Kat Coiro
Screenplay: John Rogers, Tami Sagher, Harper Dill
Based on: Marry Me graphic novel by Bobby Crosby
Producers: Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Jennifer Lopez, Benny Medina, John Rogers
Music by: John Debney
Cinematographer: Florian Ballhaus
Editor: Michael Berenbaum, Peter Teschner
Production Company: Nuyorican Productions, Perfect World Pictures, Kung Fu Monkey Productions, Belle Hope Productions
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Rated: PG (Ontario)/ PG-13 (US) - Coarse Language, Drug Use, Sexual Content
Release Date: February 11, 2022
Run Time: 112 minutes

Romantic comedies often get criticized for their unrealistic plots or their predictable yet contrived formula. Are they any less ridiculous than a lone bare-footed cop trying to stop a gang of robbers posing as terrorists armed with a plan that desperately relies on coincidences? And is the finale in most action pictures more surprising than in a romantic comedy?

Most genre pictures have ridiculous and contrived premises and rely heavily on appealing leads to draw in the audience. Suspension of disbelief is easier to master when we're captivated and connected to the leads.

Jennifer Lopez is one of the most captivating and endearing actors, and it is her radiating persona that makes the rather silly plot of Marry Me shine. The plot is a modern reworking of world-famous millionaire falling in love with middle class unknown that seems like a retelling of Notting Hill, but it is actually based off a graphic novel of the same name written by Bobby Crosby. The original source material may have been influenced by the beloved Julia Roberts starring romantic comedy or to be fair, countless other love stories like Cinderella or Coming to America. It is a story fans of romance have read and seen many times before.

Even by romantic comedy standards, this is one of the more far-fetched and fantastical premises and 'meet cutes'. Music superstar Katalina 'Kat' Valdez (Lopez) is set to be married at a sold-out concert that is streaming around the world, but her pop star fiancé Bastian (Maluma) is caught on video cheating with her assistant. Kat realizes it is no longer rational to marry him, but in a less well-thought-out move, chooses an audience member holding a 'Marry Me' sign (the title of her hit song) to be her new husband instead. This audience member is newly divorced math teacher dad, Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson) who was dragged out to the concert by his friend Parker Debbs (Sarah Silverman) and his daughter, Lou (Chloe Coleman). 

Kat makes the gesture to save face and Charlie goes through with the nuptials in order to not embarrass the star. In order to avoid media reporting it as a meltdown, Kat convinces her public relations advisor Collin Calloway (John Bradley) to keep the marriage going for a few months or until something shiny distracts the tabloids. While mild-mannered Charlie is hesitant being a part of this glamorous life, he agrees to the arrangement due to a healthy donation to his school math team and it also impresses his daughter who he is trying to reconnect.

How could a rich and famous musician with millions of fans ever find something in common with a humble and uncool math teacher? One will have only seen half a romantic comedy to quickly come to the right answer. Both Kat and Charlie learn something from the other. Kat discovers that she can be independent and doesn't need to rely on others for everything, and that she has more value than just how she is perceived by the media or her fans. Charlie is convinced to use social media, which isn't really a positive, but he also grows closer to his daughter. And learns a dorky dance, which is one of the essentials to truly living.

Director Kat Coiro along with screenwriters John Rodgers, Harper Dill and Tami Sagher are faithful to the predictable romantic comedy structure but elevates the well-worn tale with likable characters and good-natured energy. Lopez and Wilson play off each other in a natural and comfortable way where they form an authentic friendship that naturally grows to something deeper. They have several scenes where they playfully banter with each other but there are genuine moments where they open up about their fears and desires, which gives us what we need in this kind of movie, a couple we are cheering on.

Lopez is likely playing a fictionalized version of herself showing what a celebrity must be in this social media obsessed and 24-hour media access age. Lopez reveals a bit of what that type of pressure does and the toll it can take in a time where privacy among the famous has lost value. The 'real' self in front of the camera is different than the actual real self, and Lopez strikes a balance of being a glamorous and high-energy performer during her music numbers, but then a vulnerable and sincere human seeking real companionship in off-stage moments. Coiro deserves credit making those moment on-stage pop with a vibrance and energy, but Lopez elevates it with her dance numbers and star power. 

Wilson provides a pleasing counterbalance with his shaggy charm as someone who is a little awkward but also very comfortable with who he is. He helps ground the film by being humble and putting his value in his relationship with his daughter and caring for his students. Wilson connects with the audience even if it is clear that Lopez is the star with a clear character arc.

The movie also finds time to develop a few other positive relationships. Kat has a few sweet bonding moments with Lou, and Coleman captures a unique charisma conveying a believable pre-teen with emotional complication while remaining adorable and charming. Charlie is rounded out by his own moments with his daughter as they grow closer. Calloway avoids being the typical slimy public relations advisor by genuinely caring about his client, and he even has some sweet scenes with Kat. Silverman has a very minor role but there is a sincere affection between her and Charlie and his daughter.

Marry Me avoids any over-the-top villains looking to break-up the couple and there isn't any third act contrived misunderstanding, or some moment where a toxic side seeps through in a lead we're supposed to like. The relationship has ups and downs, and of course, we need a 'will they or won't they', but the movie puts greater value on sweeter moments like having a date as chaperones at the middle school dance rather than stirring up drama for the sake of plot. It is a fairy tale with modern trappings of Instagram and a culture where the camera is always on, but the romance at its core is one that has been a crowd-pleaser for eons.