Review: ‘Marry Me’ (2022), starring Jennifer Lopez, Owen Wilson and Maluma

February 11, 2022

by Carla Hay

Owen Wilson, Jennifer Lopez and Chloe Coleman in “Marry Me” (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

“Marry Me” (2022)

Directed by Kat Coiro

Some language in Spanish with no subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in New York City and briefly in Peoria, Illinois, the romantic comedy film “Marry Me” features a racially diverse cast of characters (white, Latino, African American and Asian) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Superstar music diva Kat Valdez impulsively marries a mathematics teacher—who is a socially awkward stranger she picked out from her concert audience and wed on the night they met—and they both try to make the marriage work.

Culture Audience: “Marry Me” will appeal mainly to people who are fans of star Jennifer Lopez and anyone who likes formulaic and unimaginative romantic comedies.

Jennifer Lopez. Michelle Buteau, Khalil Middleton (back row, third from left), Maluma, John Bradley and Owen Wilson in “Marry Me” (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

“Marry Me” is just an extended music video for Jennifer Lopez to sing songs that she wants to sell in a hackneyed story with no surprises. She and a bland Owen Wilson have no believable chemistry together, even though they star in the movie as an unlikely couple who are supposed to fall in love with each other. The entire movie looks as fake as the myriad of wigs and hair extensions that a superstar diva would wear.

Directed by Kat Coiro, “Marry Me” starts out with a somewhat intriguing concept that asks these questions: What if two famous singers were supposed to get married on a concert stage with a televised audience of millions, but the bride-to-be-finds out minutes before the wedding that her groom-to-be cheated on her? And what if she impulsively decided to marry a “regular guy” stranger in the audience instead? And what if this diva and this “regular guy” actually tried to make their marriage work?

That’s the entire story in “Marry Me,” but the movie does absolutely nothing original with this idea, which might have worked well with a genuinely hilarious screenplay and the right people cast in the roles. Unfortunately, “Marry Me” (written by Harper Dill, John Rogers and Tami Sagher) takes the lazy and unimaginative route, by cramming in cliché after cliché seen in many other romantic comedies until the movie comes to a very underwhelming and formulaic end. The screenplay is based on author Bobby Crosby’s 2020 graphic novel “Marry Me.” The movie “Marry Me” tries too hard to be sweet and likable, but it all comes across as cloying and pandering, especially when this movie is actually designed to peddle Lopez’s music and anything else that got product-placement deals for this movie.

In “Marry Me,” Kat Valdez (played by Lopez) is the heartbroken diva who rebounds quicker than you can say “rom-com garbage.” On the night of her lavish wedding, which takes place at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, she finds out just a few minutes before the ceremony that her heartthrob singer fiancé Bastian (played Maluma) cheated on her with her assistant Tyra (played by Katrina Cunningham). A tabloid website has posted a video of Bastian and Tyra having a sexual tryst, and the video has instantly gone viral. Kat and Bastian have a duet called “Marry Me” that they were going to sing to each other during the wedding, which is expected to have a global audience of about 20 million people. As soon as Kat finds out about Bastian’s infidelity, she breaks up with him backstage.

Instead of canceling the wedding, Kat sees mathematics teacher Charlie Gilbert (played by Wilson) in the audience, while he’s holding a sign that says “Marry Me.” Charlie is a mild-mannered divorcé who’s in the audience with his 12-year-old daughter Lou (played by Chloe Coleman) and Charlie’s school counselor co-worker Parker Debbs (played by Sarah Silverman), who was the one who convinced Charlie to go to this event since she had two extra tickets. Lou and Parker are big fans of Kat’s, but Charlie doesn’t really know who Kat is. He’s only holding the “Marry Me” sign because “Marry Me” is the name of this wedding event, and Parker (who’s a lovelorn lesbian) made the sign.

The next thing you know, Charlie is called up on stage, and he and Kat get “married.” This on-stage wedding isn’t legal, because Charlie never signed any marriage documents before he exchanged vows with Kat. The wedding officiator didn’t even say Charlie’s name during the ceremony. He just said “some guy” instead of Charlie’s name.

However, Kat decides with her annoying manager Colin Calloway (played by John Bradley) that she might as well get some publicity out of this fiasco, so she comes up with the idea to make the marriage legal. And if the marriage doesn’t work out in a few months, so be it. With this cavalier attitude toward marriage, it should come as no surprise that Charlie is Kat’s fourth husband. Her three previous marriages ended in divorce. (It might have been a nod to Lopez’s real-life failed marriages, because when Lopez made this movie, she had already been divorced three times.)

Since Charlie doesn’t know anything about Kat when they first meet, she gives him a brief summary of two of her previous failed marriages. Kat mentions that she was married to her first husband for 48 hours. (Sounds a lot like Britney Spears.) Kat also says that her second husband was a music producer who sold a private sex video they did together. (It’s probably a reference to when Lopez in real life sued her first ex-husband, Ojani Noa, for $10 million in 2009, when he tried to sell private sex videos that they made during their honeymoon.)

Kat then says that she and Bastian were together for about a year-and-a-half, and they got together after the breakup from her second ex-husband. There’s no mention of the third ex-husband and where he fits into the timeline of Kat’s train-wreck love life. Kat self-servingly makes it sound like bad things happen to her in her romantic relationships, yet she takes no responsibility for anything that she might have done wrong too that caused the relationships to fail.

At first, Charlie is reluctant to have his marriage to Kat be legal. “I have a daughter. I don’t want to drag her into a circus,” he tells Colin. This shady manager then blatantly lies and says that Lou won’t be affected by the publicity of Charlie being married to Kat. Colin says that the spin on this hasty marriage is that it’s a “break from tradition.” Charlie’s co-worker Parker then convinces Charlie to make the marriage legal, so that Charlie can get Kat to donate some money to the school where Charlie and Parker work.

It’s all so crass and cringeworthy. And this marriage doesn’t make Charlie look like he’s thinking of what’s best for his daughter Lou, who already has a tense relationship with Charlie because she thinks he’s boring, out-of-touch and a more than a little embarrassing. Charlie and his ex-wife (who has remarried and is never seen in the movie) share custody of Lou, who stays with Charlie three days a week. Lou is also a student at the middle school where Charlie teaches. Charlie is Lou’s math teacher and the leader of the school’s math club, where Lou is a reluctant member.

After this spontaneous wedding, Charlie gets thrust into the public spotlight, as he and Kat try to make their marriage work. Cue the expected scenes of Charlie not fitting in well with Kat’s superstar lifestyle. He is shocked and irritated when he’s hounded by paparazzi. Kat is someone who has 250 million followers on Instagram, but Charlie is someone who hates social media. Charlie doesn’t even have a smartphone. He still uses an outdated flip phone.

Charlie also has problems adjusting to the fact that Kat constantly has a camera operator with her to film her life for her social media channels. His name is Kofi (played by Khalil Middleton), who doesn’t say much, but Charlie thinks it’s intrusive and unnecessary for Kat to document her life in this way. Did Charlie forget that he married a superstar?

And there’s more of Charlie’s ignorance on display: Charlie finds it surprising and distasteful that Kat has signed several endorsement deals. “Her whole life is sponsored,” Charlie gripes. How do you think she makes much of her fortune, Charlie?

It’s not through selling recorded music (in real life, music superstars make most of their money through other means, such as touring and sponsorship deals), although “Marry Me” has blatant shilling of Lopez’s forgettable tunes in scenes that are really music video clips. There’s also some very over-the-top product placement in the movie. These products and song titles won’t be mentioned in this review because “Marry Me” does more than enough over-selling of what it’s trying to sell.

One of the corniest things about “Marry Me” is when Kat spouts some of her platitudes to try to explain why she’s so flaky in love and marriage, even though she has no credibility in giving advice on how to have a healthy and loving marriage that doesn’t end in divorce. In one scene, she tells Charlie: “I believe in marriage. It’s like math. If you get a problem wrong, you keep trying until you get it right.”

And immediately after Kat singles out Charlie in the audience with the intent to get him to marry her, she gives this semi-rambling speech: “If you want something different, you do something different. So this time, for the first time, you make a different choice. You jump off a cliff so high, you don’t even see the fall, and you just say yes.”

Even worse: “Marry Me” has a misguided way of trying to make Kat’s bad romantic judgment look like she’s a modern feminist. In reality, she’s an emotionally immature person who has some very outdated views on being single: She’s so afraid of being without a man, she pressures a total stranger to marry her. Confident and independent women don’t use marriage as a way to prove their self-worth, but as a way to share a committed relationship with another person.

Kat admits in one part of the movie that her impulsive wedding to Charlie was so she could save face after being humiliated by Bastian. In other words, the marriage to Charlie was more of a reaction than an independent-minded action. And you can bet there’s a part of the movie where Kat tries to make Bastian jealous and makes it obvious that she has lingering feelings for him. These mind games make Charlie insecure, of course, and you know where this is going in the “boy loses girl” part of the rom-com formula.

During their first press conference as spouses, Kat uses feminist-speak to try to justify using Charlie to boost her ego: “The rules, as they exist, pretty much suck for women. I mean, why do we have to wait until men propose? Why is everything on his terms? I think it’s time to shake things up!”

Kat continues, “How about this? We pick the guy, we keep our name, and let him earn the right to stay.” It sounds like a rousing feminist speech, except that Kat forgot that when she was on stage and saw Charlie, she actually did things the “old-fashioned” way with the man proposing. She saw Charlie’s “Marry Me” sign, and declared to him in front of the crowd, “Yes, I’ll marry you!” The filmmakers of this mindless movie expect viewers to forget that part too.

At the press conference, Charlie sounds even less convincing than Kat when trying to say that their marriage is a good idea. He awkwardly mentions that marriage has a history of being transactional, because in the old days, women were basically treated as property to be bought and sold into marriage. (He doesn’t mention that arranged marriages are still prevalent in many cultures.)

Charlie reminds the assembled reporters that a woman’s marital worth used to be based on her dowry in the old days, and how it’s so great that women have made progress since then. And yet, Charlie forgets to mention that this progress includes being a wealthy divorcée who can choose to marry a man who wants her money for his own personal agenda, such as making a large donation to his workplace. Hey, Charlie, what did you just say about a dowry being outdated?

And just who did Kat marry as her fourth husband? Charlie is a loner whose closest companion is his bulldog Tank. Not much is said about Charlie’s love life before he met Kat, except that Charlie and his ex-wife split up when Lou was too young to even remember when they were together. Predictably, Lou thinks her stepfather Steve (who is never seen in the movie) is a lot cooler than Charlie is, so Charlie feels inadequate and jealous. Guess who’s going to be the cool stepmother who will bring Charlie and Lou closer together?

You can almost do a countdown to when Kat shows up as a “surprise guest” in Charlie’s classroom, where she teaches the students how to correlate learning how to solve complicated math problems with learning how to dance like Kat Valdez. Later in the movie, Charlie’s math club students go to a big math competition in Peoria, Illinois, so you know exactly what that means in this cornball movie. Kat is completely unbelievable as someone who would be an attentive stepmother to Lou, unless it involves a photo op or self-serving video that Kat can put on her social media.

Lopez, who is one of the producers of “Marry Me,” is basically playing a version of herself as Kat Valdez in “Marry Me,” so the role really isn’t much of an acting stretch for her. Wilson just goes through the motions as dreadfully drab Charlie, who married a superstar, and then spends too much time whining about how famous Kat is. One of the most grating things about Charlie is that he acts personally offended when Kat does things to maintain her fame and fortune and fulfill her celebrity obligations, as if she’s suddenly supposed to change her lifestyle in the way that he sees fit.

Coleman is playing another in her long list of kid characters who are precocious, bratty or both. Silverman does her usual sarcastic schtick with a character who mouths off to people. Maluma doesn’t have much to do in this movie except sing and play a smooth-talking sex symbol. Michelle Buteau has an empty and superficial role as Kat’s image-conscious and sycophantic personal assistant Melissa, who doesn’t think too highly of nerdy Charlie. Utkarsh Ambudkar hams it up in a brief appearance as Coach Manny, the mean-spirited leader of the math competition’s arrogant reigning championship team.

“Marry Me” is a continuous pile-on of silly schmaltz and stereotypes, including the over-used “race to the airport” rom-com scene, because someone has to make a grand gesture that shows a commitment to love “before it’s too late.” And the movie’s 112-minute run time is too long, considering a lot of it is music video filler and rehashing of the same story arcs that have already been in hundreds of other romantic comedies. The movie’s pace drags in too many places, and the last third of “Marry Me” gets more and more ridiculous. “Marry Me” is not only a movie divorced from reality, but it’s also a movie divorced from any real wit and creativity.

Universal Pictures released “Marry Me” in U.S. cinemas and on Peacock on February 11, 2022.

Review: ‘Moonfall’ (2022), starring Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley, Michael Peña, Charlie Plummer, Wenwen Yu and Donald Sutherland

January 26, 2022

by Carla Hay

Halle Berry and Patrick Wilson in “Moonfall” (Photo by Reiner Bajo/Lionsgate)

“Moonfall” (2022)

Directed by Roland Emmerich

Culture Representation: Taking place in Washington, D.C.; New York City; Los Angeles; Colorado and outer space, the sci-fi/action film “Moonfall” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans, Latinos and Asians) representing the middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: A high-ranking NASA astronaut, a former NASA astronaut and a science conspiracy theorist all team up and sometimes disagree on how to handle an impending apocalypse where the moon is on a path of destruction to Earth.

Culture Audience: “Moonfall” will appeal mainly to people who don’t mind watching silly sci-fi films with ridiculous scenarios and cringeworthy dialogue.

John Bradley in “Moonfall” (Photo by Reiner Bajo/Lionsgate)

How do you make an apocalypse film so idiotic that the movie is its own kind of disaster? “Moonfall” can answer that question. This sloppy sci-fi flick has more holes in its plot than craters on the moon. It’s not even a “so bad it’s good” movie. The filmmaking in “Moonfall” is so lazy, with generic characters and a story that’s absolutely cringeworthy. Slick but not-very-impressive visual effects are thrown into the movie as a weak attempt to distract viewers from a nonsensical story that makes an atrocious mockery of NASA.

“Moonfall” was directed by Roland Emmerich, who’s known for helming a lot of “end of the world” or “monsters attack” disaster movies, but the terrible ones he’s made far outnumber the good ones. “Moonfall” is one of his worst. Emmerich co-wrote the abominable “Moonfall” screenplay with Spenser Cohen and Harald Kloser. Although there are some talented people in the “Moonfall” cast, they’re stuck in a horrendous movie where they have to embarrass themselves.

The movie opens with an ill-fated NASA spaceship mission with three astronauts on board: Jocinda “Jo” Fowler (played by Halle Berry), Brian Harper (played by Patrick Wilson) and Alan Marcus (played by Frank Fiola)—a tight-knit trio of co-workers who respect each other. Something goes terribly wrong in space, as a massive dark force resembling a cosmic storm comes out of nowhere and seems to attack the ship.

Debris flies everywhere, causing the ship to bounce around and almost capsize. Brian is able to steer the ship back in the correct position, but Alan doesn’t make it out alive. Back on Earth, Brian insists that there’s a deadly force out in space that deliberately caused the attack. However, NASA officials say that’s a crazy idea and declare this fatal space trip to be a fluke accident.

The movie then shows Brian’s 8-year-old son Sonny (played by Azriel Dalman) sadly looking at the TV news, which is reporting that Brian, who has been fired from NASA, is suing NASA for wrongful termination. In court testimony, Brian reiterates that there’s something terrible out in space that must be investigated and stopped. NASA has labeled Brian as a mentally unstable former astronaut who has no credibility.

Sonny is unhappy not just because of what happened to his father. He’s also upset because he and his mother Brenda (played by Carolina Bartczak) are moving to New Jersey without Brian. Not only has Brian’s career fallen apart, his marriage to Brenda has also deteriorated, and they eventually divorce. Brian is also bitter because Jo, who still works for NASA, testified in NASA’s defense, and it’s ruined their friendship.

“Moonfall” then cuts to 10 years later. Brian is unemployed with a drinking problem and a bad temper. Sonny (played by Charlie Plummer) is now a troubled rebel who’s a student at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Sonny lives with his mother Brenda and her current husband Tom Lopez (played by Michael Peña), who owns a successful car dealership. Also in the household are Tom’s two daughters from a previous marriage: Nikki Lopez (played by Ava Weiss), who’s about 13 or 14, and Lauren Lopez (played by Hazel Nugent), who’s about 10 or 11. The family also has a vacation home in Aspen, Colorado. (“Moonfall” was actually filmed in Montreal and Los Angeles.)

An unnecessary scene in the movie shows Sonny getting arrested with a friend during a high-speed chase with police that was on live television. Illegal drugs were found in the car, but Sonny swears that the drugs belong to the friend. Sonny’s arrest just leads to another time-wasting scene of Brian showing up for Sonny’s arraignment in court and making a complete ass of himself, by yelling at the judge that Sonny is innocent. It’s Brian’s way of trying to make up for being an absentee father, but Brian’s courtroom outbursts make things worse, and the judge rules for Sonny to be held without bail until Sonny’s next courtroom hearing.

Meanwhile, level-headed Jo has risen through the ranks at NASA, where she reports to NASA director Albert Hutchings (played by Stephen Bogaert), an arrogant boss who is very condescending and dismissive of Jo. Just like Brian, Jo is also a divorced parent. Her ex-husband is General Doug Davidson (played by Eme Ikwuakor), a hard-edged military official who hangs out a lot at NASA headquarters. Jo and Doug have a son named Jimmy (played by Zayn Maloney), who’s about 8 or 9 years old. Jo has hired a college student named Michelle (played by Wenwen Yu) to be a live-in nanny who can help take care of Jimmy.

Someone will eventually cross paths with Jo and Brian and team up with them for the movie’s mind-numbing “we have to save the world” part of the movie. His name is K.C. Houseman (played by John Bradley), and he’s a fast-talking Brit who’s a conspiracy theorist and a wannabe scientist. K.C. works as a janitor at a university, where he makes secret and illegal phone calls and computer log-ins, by impersonating one of the university’s professors when everyone has left the office for the day.

K.C. is a bachelor loner who is obsessed with moon travel and how the moon can affect Earth. How obsessed is he with moon travel? He named his cat Fuzz Aldrin, as a tribute to famed Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon. K.C.’s widowed mother, who uses a wheelchair and lives in a nursing home, has dementia. K.C. visits her, but she sometimes forgets who he is.

When he’s not working as a janitor who impersonates scientist professors and hacks into their computers, K.C. works in the drive-through window at a fast-food restaurant. In his spare time, K.C. has been working on proving a theory that the moon’s orbit is about to radically shift. One evening at the fast-food place, K.C. gets a message on his phone from one of the people he conned into thinking that he’s a scientist. The message has some information that indicates that K.C.’s “moon orbit shift” theory could become a reality. The theory spreads like wildfire on the Internet.

K.C. sees a newspaper report that it’s Astronaut Day at Griffith Park Observatory, where Brian is scheduled to make a speaking appearance in front of some school kids. This movie is so badly written, it doesn’t explain why a disgraced and former NASA astronaut would be invited to make this type of speaking appearance. It’s all a poorly conceived contrivance for K.C. to show up before Brian does, so that K.C. can start giving his own “astronaut” lecture to the children.

When Brian arrives (he’s late because he overslept, probably because of his drinking problem), he’s irritated to see that K.C. has taken over the lecture. Brian doesn’t know who K.C. is, but Brian can easily see that K.C. is some kind of fake scientist, even though K.C. insists that he’s a “doctor.” K.C. tells Brian that he believes Brian about there being a mysterious force that’s in the universe and that it could be why the moon’s orbit will shift. K.C. still doesn’t make a good impression on Brian, who summons security personnel to have K.C. thrown out of the building.

Meanwhile, Jo is at NASA declaring to anyone who’ll listen: “We have to go back to the moon! We have to see what’s going on up there!” Some astronauts are quickly sent back to the moon, as if this type of space trip is as easy as booking a plane flight. But this expedition to the moon ends badly. It’s the first time that NASA officials see the “mysterious force,” which now has octopus-like tentacles that can kill.

It isn’t long before all hell breaks loose. Earth gets hit with tidal waves of floods everywhere. It’s at the same time that K.C. and Brian have met up again in a diner, because at this point, K.C. is the only person who will believe Brian. The flooding destroys the diner, right in the middle of K.C. and Brian’s conversation. It’s one of the unintentionally hilarious parts of the movie.

K.C. thinks that the mysterious force in the universe has caused the moon to veer off course and triggered disastrous weather on Earth. In addition to floods, there are massive earthquakes and storms. People start panicking, and there’s widespread looting. Military officials, including a stereotypical “nuke ’em all” type named General Jenkins (played by Frank Schorpion), argue about whether or not the moon should be attacked with nuclear weapons.

Jo and her boss Albert are at NASA headquarters when she somberly says the obvious to him: “Everything we knew about the universe is out the window. We’re not prepared for this.” There’s so much mass chaos that Albert abruptly quits his job as director of NASA and says that Jo can be in charge and have the job. He gives his NASA badge to her as “clearance.” Yes, the movie really is this stupid.

Guess who’s going into space to save the world? Brian, K.C. and Jo make the trip under a series of jumbled and preposterous circumstances. Meanwhile, there’s a subplot where Sonny, Brenda, Tom, Lauren, Nikki, Jimmy and Michelle all end up together, as they fight for their lives in the snowy mountains of Colorado, in an attempt to get to a safety bunker. Somehow during this life-or-death situation, Sonny and Michelle find time to make goo-goo eyes at each other and act like they want to date each other when this pesky apocalypse is all over.

Why are they in the Colorado mountains? There’s some nonsense in the movie that the higher the elevation where people can be, the less likely they will be killed. Apparently, the “Moonfall” filmmakers want viewers to forget that this “safety precaution” is pointless if you’re trapped on a mountain where you could be buried in a snowy avalanche caused by earthquakes that are happening all over the world.

It gets worse. If you dare to subject yourself to this time-wasting trash movie, it might be hard for you not to laugh at the big “reveal” of why this “mysterious force” exists in the universe. The answer is supposed to make the movie look “deep,” but it’s just a pathetic attempt to rip off “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

At certain parts of the movie, “Moonfall” co-stars Berry and Wilson look like they’re trying their best to convincingly deliver some of the moronic dialogue that they have to spout, but it’s a hopeless effort. Bradley’s K.C. character is relentlessly annoying. Donald Sutherland has a cameo as a scientist named Holdenfield, who does what a Donald Sutherland cameo character usually does in a movie: He briefly shows up to act like he knows more than anyone else in the room.

Peña, who’s usually typecast as a wisecracking character, is given some lackluster and awkwardly placed “jokes” in this movie’s failed comic relief. Worst of all, “Moonfall” takes itself way too seriously to be considered a campy bad movie. You’re more likely to be grimacing than laughing if you end up watching “Moonfall,” a horrible misfire that crashes and burns in more ways than one.

Lionsgate will release “Moonfall” in U.S. cinemas on February 4, 2022.

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