The Super Bowl is just around the corner and that means they’ll be playing some football around the endless marathon of splashy commercials — but I swear, it felt as if there were nearly as many ads embedded into the lightweight and dopey Jennifer Lopez/Owen Wilson rom-com “Marry Me” as we’ll experience all Sunday evening.
Universal Pictures presents a film directed by Kat Coiro and written by John Rogers, Tami Sagher and Harper Dill, based on the graphic novel by Bobby Crosby. Rated PG-13 (for some language and suggestive material). Running time: 112 minutes. Opens Thursday at local theaters and available Friday on Peacock.
You want to talk blatant product placement? The action (such as it is) in this amiable and harmless but forgettable and formulaic story practically comes screeching to a halt a number of times just so characters can shoehorn in dialogue that mentions a product by name. “Marry Me” contains plugs for an upscale jeweler, a radio/podcast distributor, a national banking chain, a high-priced smart phone, a familiar jeans company (twice), a certain kind of juicer (at least twice) — and reaches its pinnacle when Jennifer Lopez’ internationally famous pop star Kat Valdez offers to buy “Michelob Ultras” for everyone on a plane.
That’s just breathtakingly, almost admirably shameless.
Beyond the product placement, “Marry Me” is a high-concept “elevator pitch” movie that is set in present day but feels like a relic of the mid-1990s. It’s a kind of upside-down “Notting Hill,” with the premise of a world-famous superstar who finds herself in a most unlikely romance with an unassuming, fumbling but endearing regular guy. Alas, while Owen Wilson and Jennifer Lopez are charming enough, they’re not Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, and the script for “Marry Me” isn’t nearly as polished, warm, funny and engaging as “Notting Hill.” As celebrity/”civilian” romantic comedies go, “Marry Me” is more in the league of “Win a Date With Tad Hamilton.”
Lopez is essentially playing a version of herself, as her Kat Valdez is an internationally famous pop star whose personal life has long been fodder for the tabloids — not that Kat seems to mind the attention, seeing as how she has 80 million followers on Instagram and an ever-present videographer to record nearly every waking moment of her life. Kat’s latest stunt seems ill-timed, tone-deaf and embarrassing, as she is going to perform a duet of her new song “Marry Me” with her boyfriend, the pop star known as Bastian (the Colombian singer-songwriter Maluma, making his film debut), and then actually marry Bastian before a streaming audience of some 20 million.
Meanwhile, in a completely different corner of New York, we meet one Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson), a full-out nerd and divorced dad who loves his 12-year-old daughter Lou (Chloe Coleman), teaches math at the local middle school and is hopelessly unhip. When Charlie’s pal, the wisecracking guidance counselor Parker Debbs (Sarah Silverman) just happens to wind up with two extra tickets for the big “Marry Me” show that night, she tells Charlie to come with his Lou. She’ll think ol’ Dad is cool and fun and stuff!
This is when “Marry Me” goes full fractured fairy tale. When Kat learns Bastian has been having an affair with her assistant, she calls off the wedding onstage — but then Kat points to Charlie, who is standing in the crowd with a “Marry Me” sign because lots of fans made “Marry Me” signs, and she asks Charlie to marry her right then and there.
And Charlie says yes, because if not we don’t have a movie.
You know where we’re going from here. At first it’s just a publicity stunt, and Charlie and Kat can pretend to be married for a few months, but then they start spending a lot of time together, and Charlie’s simple ways start to grow on Kat, and Kat shows up at Math Club, which really impresses Lou and the other kids, and now we’re getting a kind of “The Bodyguard” vibe but mostly “Notting Hill,” but what if that slimy Bastian shows up again, and will Charlie ever be able to accept that the fame thing isn’t really real, and don’t forget, Kat’s also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her. Will he????
Lopez and Wilson have a nice, easygoing chemistry together and “Marry Me” has its moments of escapist romance. Most of the musical performances are catchy enough, but there’s a jarringly forced and quite terrible number called “Church,” in which Lopez as Kat sings “I’m down on my knees, I’ve fallen for you, you’ve opened my gates and showed me the truth … I’m baptized in you!” as scantily clad dancers dressed as S&M nuns and priests cavort about. It’s tacky and tasteless and also seems like something Madonna would have done 25 years ago. They should have divorced this entire scene from “Marry Me.”