Marry Me

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It makes total sense that Jennifer Lopez would want to make Marry Me. The film is about how constant media focus on celebrities' love lives makes it difficult to have a normal relationship. Lopez understands this subject better than anyone. She knows what it's like to have paparazzi stalking around, waiting to get a picture of her with Ben Affleck. She knows how it feels to see magazines and websites breathlessly speculating about breakups or get-togethers. This screenplay must have spoken to her on a fundamental level.

The vast majority of people who see Marry Me, however, will not even remotely understand what those things are like. For that reason, the movie will play as a pleasant but shallow rom-com, full of familiar beats and predictable plot points.

Lopez has her heart in it, which carries things to a point. She's Kat Valdez, a very Jennifer Lopez-like singer-dancer. After a couple failed marriages, Kat is ready to take the plunge again. Her betrothed is another popular singer, Bastian (played by Latin music sensation Maluma). We're told they have a combined social media reach of 20 million people, so their upcoming wedding – scheduled to happen onstage in front of both live and virtual audiences – is a much-hyped event. On the night of the wedding, Page Six posts a video of Bastian cheating on Kat with her assistant. She sees it right before going onstage.

Having a mini-breakdown in front of throngs of fans, Kat looks into the crowd and sees a random guy holding a sign that says “Marry Me,” the name of the song she and Bastian recorded together to celebrate their planned union. He's Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson), a divorced math teacher dubbed “not fun” by his young daughter Lou (Chloe Coleman). Kat spontaneously proposes to Charlie, who, egged on by the crowd, plays along. After the show, he assumes they'll go their separate ways, but Kat and her manager convince him to continue being seen with her in order to control the narrative of her breakup with Bastian. You can doubtlessly guess what happens from there.

Marry Me spends a fair amount of time focusing on the media's obsession with the Kat/Charlie dynamic. He can't leave his house without getting his picture taken, they have to stage photo ops together to send the desired message, and so on. Whereas Charlie is a normal guy, Kat has a different reality. She has to consider how everything she does will play out in the press. Disappointingly, the movie never goes beyond a surface level with that idea, or digs into the psychological toll that would take. It's all obvious stuff.

Jennifer Lopez is certainly authentic in a role that allows her to perform multiple musical numbers designed to showcase her singing and dancing talents. To the extent that Marry Me works, though, it's due to Wilson. He plays Charlie as a nice guy who recognizes that this extremely famous woman is hurting and therefore goes out of his way to show compassion. The character's motivation for going along with the sham marriage is underwritten. Nevertheless, Wilson fills in the gaps, making Charlie's efforts to help Kat find a sense of normalcy touching.

His sincerity and Lopez's authenticity might have made Marry Me work better had it stayed in that lane and gone further. Instead, it throws in a lot of unnecessary fluff, like Charlie's fame-obsessed co-worker (Sarah Silverman), who adds little to the plot. A climactic sequence involving Lou's attempt to battle her nerves during a math competition, meanwhile, has its resolution telegraphed so far in advance that you'll know what's going to happen long before it does, thereby robbing it of suspense.

Marry Me goes down smoothly enough. Lopez and Wilson are good, the songs are catchy, and there a few laughs scattered throughout. Why not dig deeper? J Lo has endured media scrutiny on a level few other celebs have. The movie could have been a romance with genuine substance, one that helped viewers understand how fame impacts a person's ability to love and be loved. Instead, it's just another basic romantic-comedy that goes exactly where you expect it to at every turn.

out of four

Marry Me is rated PG-13 for some language and suggestive material. The running time is 1 hour and 52 minutes.