Shotgun Wedding

Posted on January 26, 2023 at 5:13 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language and some violence/bloody images
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Extended terrorism peril and violence, guns, knives, grenades, characters injured and killed, some graphic images
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: January 27, 2023

Copyright 2023 Amazon
Keep this in mind as you evaluate my comments — I do not even try to resist the allure of Jennifer Lopez. So if you can, you may not be willing to surrender to the ridiculousness of this action romantic comedy about a destination wedding interrupted by violent pirates. Let me put it this way: you will probably enjoy the film if you’re okay with the fact that over the course of the film, as lawyer and bride-to-be Darcy (Lopez) is being chased by masked bad guys with military-style weapons, her pouffy bridal gown is ever-so-fetchingly shredded, her hair adorably tousled, and her maquillage (the word “make-up” cannot adequately convey the perfection) is perpetually exquisite, even has she and the groom are chased through the jungle, handcuffed, and clutching a live grenade.

Darcy and her fiancé Tom (Josh Duhamel) have brought their families and friends to a Philippene island for their wedding. (With this film and January 13’s “Plane,” the Philippines should probably consult a tourism marketing firm.) This has put a lot of stress on everyone, especially because Tom, a minor league baseball designated hitter recently released at age 40, is overly fixated on making every detail perfect and neglecting his bride. Darcy’s wealthy father, Robert (Cheech Marin), has brought his woo-woo vibes and auras girlfriend, Harriet (D’Arcy Carden of “The Good Place”). His elegant ex-wife, Darcy’s mother, Renata (Sonia Braga) wants to stay as far away from them as possible. Tom’s parents are the unfiltered, boundary-trespassing Carol (Jennifer Coolidge) and the perpetually videoing every minute Larry (Steve Coulter).

Ramping up the stress level is the surprise arrival of Darcy’s former fiancé, Sean (Lenny Kravitz), who now works for Darcy’s father and is something of a surrogate son. He arrives by helicopter and insists on giving a toast at the rehearsal dinner. The next morning, as the guests are in their chairs on the beach waiting for the ceremony to begin, Tom and Darcy are on another part of the island breaking up.

This is why they are not there when the pirates arrive and take everyone else hostage, making them gather in the infinity pool while they send a search party to kidnap the bride and groom. They tell Robert they will not release them until he transfers $45 million to them. He says he will not to anything until they prove that Darcy is safe. Tom and Darcy have to find a way to take on heavily armed, trained group with no weapons, training, protective gear, or idea what they’re doing.

The balance of humor and action is uneven, and it does not even try to make sense. But the overall tone is lighthearted, and, as I said, Lopez is, as always, hard to resist.

Parents should know that this film includes terrorist-style peril and violence with military-grade weapons, chases, and explosions. Chaacters are injured and killed, in light-hearted fashion when they are bad guys, and there are some grisly images. Chacters uses strong and crude language with sexual references and a non-explicit sexual situation.

Family discussion: Whose family was more difficult? Was the twist a surprise? What did the attack reveal to Darcy and Tom about themselves and each other?

If you like this, try: “Wedding Season

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Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Posted on March 12, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Claireece (newcomer Gabourey ‘Gabby’ Sidibe) is a 16-year-old, still in middle school, illiterate, pregnant with her second child. The first baby has Down Syndrome. Both pregnancies are the result of rape by her own father. She is subjected to constant physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and has retreated so far inside herself that she barely exists in the world. And in a cruel parody of tenderness, she is called by her middle name, “Precious.” In a cruel demonstration of the constrictions of her world, Precious knew no other name to give her Down Syndrome child than “Mongo.”

Inside 350 pounds of weight, a moat of flesh, her wall against the world, Precious hides as far from everyone as she can go. She has little wisps of dreams cobbled together from television, a light-skinned boyfriend, a stroll down a red carpet, surrounded by cameras and adoring fans. But she is so limited in experience and opportunity that she literally cannot imagine a genuine alternative to what she has. She does not even know what the word “alternative” means. When the middle school principal arranges for her to attend a special “each one teach one” alternative school, someone has to explain to her what an alternative is. It is, a distracted administrator tells her, “a different way of doing.” And it is that recognition, more than the program itself, just the realization that there are different ways of doing, that leads her to understand that there may be choices available to her.

Seeing Precious understand for the first time that she is worthy of love and capable of learning is the expected pleasure of this movie. But it is also the challenge of the film. Even slightly toned down from the novel, by poet and teacher Sapphire, the abuse is so relentless, so outrageous, even beyond the usual struggles we see in fiction and on the talk shows and tabloid covers.

They thrive on exploitative confessions, a secularized testimony that tries to disinfect the prurient pleasures of wallowing in degradation and tragedy with the superficial pieties of simplistic redemption. The post-production sign-on of Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry as producers, both survivors of abuse and highly successful purveyors of abuse melodrama, is a sign to be wary. And even with a sensitive performance by Sidibe, this film would risk falling into that trap of easy sentimentality. That it does not is due to one character and one actress, comedienne Mo’Nique in her Oscar-winning, fearless portrayal of the mother, a monster named, with grim irony, Mary.

Two key scenes in the film focus on Mary’s interactions with social workers. In the first, like a theatrical director, she barks out orders to set the stage for a visit, casting herself in the role of a loving grandmother, to persuade the social worker that she is doing everything necessary to qualify for welfare payments for her extended family. Where moments before she seemed completely out of control, wavering back and forth between stupor and rage, when she has to pull it together, she does, slapping on a wig and cuddling the baby. The instant the door shuts, the monster returns.

And then, near the end, in another meeting with another social worker (beautifully underplayed by pop diva Mariah Carey), Mary starts to talk and for the first time we see her as the victim as well as the inflicter of damage. In a monologue she seems to forget where she is and who she wants to appear to be and opens herself up in a moment so raw, so naked, so vulnerable that it takes the entire film to a different level.

Director Lee Daniels, like his producers Winfrey and Perry, brings a sincerity to telling these stories that tempers the potential for exploitation. He has a sure, if unconventional, eye for casting. In addition to Mo’Nique and Carey, he gets small jewels of performances from talk-show and sit-com star Sherry Shepherd as the alternative school administrator and musician Lenny Kravitz as a sympathetic nurse. The lovely Paula Patton brings understated grace to the role of the alternative teacher, and the assortment of young performers who play the classmates at Each One Teach One manage to avoid the “Welcome Back Kotter” syndrome and evoke full characters. But Mo’Nique’s fierce and fearless performance as Mary holds the story together and takes it to another level. She does not let us hate her because she does not let us compartmentalize her. By opening herself up on screen, she forces us to look into the source of her damaged heart. And that moment, more than any other, shows us what Precious has had to overcome.

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