Monday, February 14, 2022

Marry Me is just what you'd want from an old-school romantic-comedy


Shortly after his directorial debut, The Rental, came out, Dave Franco revealed that his next project as a filmmaker would be a romantic-comedy. But not just any entry in the genre, oh no, this would be an "elevated romantic-comedy". Using the same "elevated" term used to describe many modern horror movies, this comment bugged me. The romantic-comedy doesn't need to be "elevated", just make an entry in this genre! Don't be ashamed of it! There's such a self-conciousness in approaching romantic-comedies in this manner, though that quality is totally absent from the new motion picture Marry Me, which is about as traditional of an entry as you can get. That's no complaint, though, and the best moments of this movie suggest why it'd be best for the romantic-comedy to be unapologetically old-school.

Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez) is a massively successful singer preparing to get married during a concert to her boyfriend Bastian (Maluma). Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson), meanwhile, is a cynical math teacher reeling from divorce whose just concerned with helping his students and daughter. The duo would've likely never crossed pathes, let alone gotten involved in a whirlwind romance, if not for the fateful night Gilbert accompanied a friend to Valdez's big marriage concert. There, Valdez discovered Bastian was cheating on her and then made the impulsive decision to marry a random stranger from the audience. That stranger turned out to be Gilbert, whose now stuck navigating stardom and a possibly blossoming marriage he never could have imagined.

The predictable nature of Marry Me is interwoven into the fabric of the story. You come to a musical for singing and dancing, you come to a superhero movie for the spectacle, and you come to a romantic-comedy for certain story beats. Marry Me is all too happy to provide on that front and that's just fine. A bit more of a problem is an exposition-heavy first act that works a bit too hard to try to justify the outlandish premise. Some of the gags here also fall flat, namelt broad attempts at mimicking jokes from older movies, like yet another instance of someone in a film forgetting to put the cap on a blender. It's an odd problem for a film belonging to a genre that's often as much about the jokes as it is the passionate love affairs.  

Marry Me isn't so much a laugh riot as it is deeply pleasant to watch, which is it's secret weapon. Director Kat Cairo's traditional approach to this movie goes hand-in-hand with a decision to eschew snark or random outbursts of cruelty to see seem savvy to modern-day cynicism. Does it result in hokey moments? Of course, ditto for the inevitable side-effect of too many characters talking in profound kernels of wisdom destined to be shared as generic inspirational quotes on Facebook.  But making Marry Me unabashedly content to just be upbeat escapism proves endearing enough to carry the movie. 

It helps that the feature is capable of delivering entertaining sequences that justify the chipper tone, including a grin-inducing rendenvous in a classroom where dance moves help Mathalon students recite their numbers. The constantly kindhearted energy of the movie also makes the lowkey bonding scenes between Lopez and Wilson's protaganists nice. Their dialogue is about getting to know one another rather than dropping snarky remarks or gratingly coy meta-jokes about romantic-comedy tropes. Even the inevitable second-act downturn in the duo's relationship is smartly built more on quiet detoriation rather than a big explosive argument. 

It's hard to dispute such an agreeable atmosphere that allows actors like Lopez and Wilson plenty of opportunities to shine. Plus, you get a bunch of original tunes from the former performer that aren't all-time great songs, but do work just right as enjoyable pop ditties. I always appreciate when fictional pop stars in movies produce music that's actually solid, makes it easier to buy their in-universe success. Even if it runs too long and the gags can feel more obligatory than hysterical, Marry Me proves a charming and enjoyable watch. Committing to the feel-good version of a familiar genre is so much more fun than being so self-concious about whether you've "elevated" the romantic-comedy enough.

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