Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to review Marry Me.
Romantic comedies are like weddings: You usually know what you’re getting into when you RSVP. Two people who you hopefully like and root for will get up and proclaim their love for each other in front of an audience. There will be catchy pop songs. And even if there are hiccups along the way, you know you’re most likely walking out of there after watching two people smile and smooch.
From Girls5Eva director Kat Coiro and writer Harper Dill, adapting a webcomic by Bobby Crosby, Marry Me falls right into the expectations rom-com fans have when they walk through the door. For the most part, that’s a good thing. The movie isn’t the most comedic or innovative addition to the romantic comedy genre, but it is sweet romantic fluff. Occasionally, it falls into the pitfalls of the genre by introducing fabricated tension that the rest of the film doesn’t really justify. But ultimately, it still checks off all the boxes it should.
[Ed. note: This review contains spoilers for Marry Me, but fewer spoilers than the trailer.]
In Marry Me, superstar Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez) is set to marry her pop-star boyfriend Bastian (Colombian singer-songwriter Maluma) live on stage at the last performance of their big tour. But moments before going on, Kat learns that Bastian cheated on her with her personal assistant. On the verge of a panic attack, Kat looks out into the audience and sees regular ol’ grade-school math teacher Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson) holding a sign that says “Marry Me,” and she impulsively pulls him onto the stage for an impromptu wedding. The rest of the movie deals with the fallout of this whirlwind.
Kat doesn’t want to be seen as a laughingstock after her breakdown, so she offers Charlie a deal. If he commits to the relationship for six months as they own up to the impulsive move and tell the press that they’re using this time to get to know each other, she’ll donate money to his school’s math program. Charlie reluctantly agrees, urged by a coworker (Sarah Silverman), but also because he feels sympathy for Kat’s situation. But as rom-coms demand, in spite of the initial businesslike relationship, Kat and Charlie do fall for each other. Most of the movie is dedicated to them navigating this weird relationship they’ve entered, blossoming from complete strangers to unlikely allies to budding friends before they make their final romantic connection.
The actual tension point of Marry Me doesn’t even really occur until the last 20 minutes or so. Most of the movie is pure comfort food. Charlie and Kat go bowling. She shows up at his math-club meeting and helps the kids get over their stage fright by dancing. Eventually, they go to the school dance together, prompting some mushy-gushy moments. He gets her a corsage!
Some romantic comedies lean more on the tension of the leads butting heads, like 10 Things I Hate About You. Others lean more on the non-romantic plot, like Long Shot. Marry Me is neither of those things. Marry Me is about two good-looking people enjoying each other’s company, giggling together, and slowly falling in love. Fans of the actual comedy in romantic comedies probably won’t feel that Marry Me scratches that itch, but if you’re in the mood for some low-stakes comfort, this movie checks all those boxes.
Marry Me definitely focuses less on the “Oh man, we come from two totally different worlds!” aspect of the story than it could. Coir and Dill attempt to make the leads’ relationship even out in terms of what they learn from each other, but while Charlie successfully pushes Kat into letting go of her constant livestreams and dozens of personal assistants (including her manager Collin, played by Game of Thrones’ John Bradley) and live more in the moment, she never gets Charlie to do anything besides sign up for Instagram and maybe get a little more confident. Their inevitable brief relationship hiccup is particularly jarring here because it comes so suddenly, and with so little reason.
But every good rom-com needs a fallout, so the final love confession can soar. The breakdown in Marry Me is fabricated and not particularly smooth, but the moment that Kat realizes that she is in love with Charlie and wants to be with him hits all the right notes, even when the audience can see it coming from a mile away. Was all of this spoiled in the trailers? Yeah, absolutely. Is it still a heart-racing moment when Kat has her epiphany and races to confess her love to Charlie? Also yes! Will that final love confession make rom-com fans coo on cue? You betcha. Marry Me does everything it promises and for that, we should love and cherish it from this day forward.
Marry Me releases in theaters and on Peacock on Feb. 11.