Though it’s based on a graphic novel, this glossy romcom is best approached as a quintessential J.Lo movie. The multi-hyphenate icon doesn’t just headline Marry Me as Kat Valdez, a self-made pop queen with a chequered romantic history, but also produced the film and performs every song on the soundtrack – some as duets with her co-star, Colombian singer Maluma. It’s no surprise, then, that Lopez’s superstar charisma is absolutely integral to its success.
The role of Kat Valdez cleverly leans into our perceptions of J.Lo – that she’s a grand but down-to-earth diva who’s always camera-ready – but also plays with them a bit. When Kat complains that despite all of her success, she’s “never been nominated for anything”, it could be read as a subtle dig at the Oscars, who failed to give Lopez the nod she deserved for her show-stopping performance in 2019’s Hustlers. Then again, maybe Marry Me isn’t that deep. Part of the fun is seeing Kat preside over her global pop empire from her stunning Manhattan apartment while manager Collin (Game of Thrones‘ John Bradley) and assistant Melissa (Michelle Buteau) guide her through a packed daily schedule. Kat is the sort of modern celebrity who has a videographer following her at all times because she has 80million Instagram followers to feed.
As for the plot, well, it’s ridiculously corny but also pretty effective. Kat and her pop star boyfriend Bastian (Maluma) are planning to get hitched on stage – hey, they have a hit song called ‘Marry Me’, so it’s great promo – but Kat pulls the plug when she learns right before going on that he’s been unfaithful. In what is henceforth referred to as a “meltdown”, but isn’t quite that dramatic, Kat spots a random fan in the crowd holding a ‘Marry Me’ sign and impulsively proposes to him. He’s Charlie Gilbert (Owen Wilson), an adorkable Brooklyn maths teacher attending the concert with 12-year-old daughter Lou (Chloe Coleman), and he unexpectedly says yes.
Things then get even more contrived. Kat decides she wants to give the marriage a shot, so Collin persuades Charlie to go through the motions for a few months to minimise her public embarrassment. Though they’re from completely different worlds – she’s happiest on stage at Madison Square Garden, he prefers nerdy “Mathalon” competitions – Kat and Charlie begin to enjoy each other’s company. You can probably guess everything that happens next, but director Kat Coir injects some fizz into the script’s comforting parade of rom-com clichés: there’s even a last-minute mad dash to the airport. It helps that Marry Me is a notch funnier than most rom-coms. Coiro, who’s previously directed episodes of superior sitcoms like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and Girls5Eva, really sells some lolzy scenes featuring Charlie’s wisecracking colleague Parker (Sara Silverman).
Marry Me is much less fun than Kat’s taste in natty hats: Maluma is underused throughout and the original songs are so boring you’ll find yourself wishing Kat would just bash out ‘On the Floor’ instead. But Lopez and Wilson are so right in their roles that the film’s ropier moments are easily forgotten. It’s a quintessential J.Lo movie that makes you wonder why she doesn’t make them more often.
- Director: Kat Coiro
- Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Owen Wilson, Maluma
- Release date: February 11