I like romantic comedies. I genuinely do. They have been around since practically the beginning of movies. In fact I cut my classic cinema teeth on several early rom-coms including “Bringing Up Baby”, “The Philadelphia Story”, and “It Happened One Night”. But over the last few years romantic comedies have arguably become the most frustrating genre and finding a good one is getting harder and harder.
That’s not to say we don’t still get a few winners. But unfortunately too many end up like the new Netflix Original ” Love Wedding Repeat”, a promising yet exasperating movie that comes off as an R-rated Hallmark Channel flick and a “Four Weddings and a Funeral” knock-off. Writer-director Dean Craig puts a handsome cast together, but some spotty chemistry and dreadfully uneven humor undermine everything else. It’s kind of like a wedding cake – beautifully decorated but bland and tasteless.
A prologue begins with an Englishman named Jack (Sam Claflin) looking into a bathroom mirror and giving himself a pep talk. Turns out he just spent a magical weekend in Rome with Dina (Olivia Munn), an American friend of his sister and an aspiring war journalist. The two have really hit it off and now he hopes to seal it with a kiss. During their romantic nighttime stroll they stop by a fountain. The music swells and their eyes lock. The two move in closer and……in pops an obnoxious college buddy to shatter the moment. It’s one of those maddening movie instances that could have been fixed with one glaringly obvious line of dialogue. We don’t get it, so Jack and Dina go their separate ways.
Fast-forward three years. It’s wedding day for Jack’s manic sister Hayley (Eleanor Tomlinson) who is set to marry Roberto (Tiziano Caputo) at a posh Italian villa. Jack is essentially the wrangler, not only tasked with walking his sister down the aisle, but keeping things together and making sure the wedding goes off without a hitch. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to quickly figure out￼￼ where things are going.
Guests start arriving which is the film’s chance to introduce the side characters, all with parts to play in the inevitable avalanche of complications and (attempted) comic mayhem that’s on the way. First we meet Bryan (Joel Frey), Jack’s neurotic best friend and Hayley’s maid/man of honor. There’s Jack’s hot but catty ex-girlfriend Amanda (Frieda Pinto) along with her sulky, insecure boyfriend Chaz (Allan Mustafa) who’s consumed with the size of his privates. We get a chatterbox in a kilt named Sidney (Tim Key). And then you have Rebecca (Aisling Bea), a daffy looker whose connection to the family still eludes me.
Oh, and I can’t forget Dina who Jack hasn’t seen since that squandered night in Rome three years earlier.￼ He’s determined not to let her slip through his fingers again but first he has to pull off this wedding. That becomes significantly harder once Hayley’s￼￼￼ coked-up ex-boyfriend Marc (Jack Farthing) shows up, uninvited and intent on causing a scene. A panicking Hayley comes up with the most logical solution (please note to dripping sarcasm). She talks Jack into slipping a powerful sedative into Marc’s drink, putting him to sleep and saving her big day.
Of course that’s not how it plays out. Of course the wrong person gets roofied. Of course chaos ensues. But just as things mercifully seem to be playing out, we suddenly get a weird “Groundhog Day” moment where Craig basically rewinds and asks “What if it happened this way? What if someone else mistakenly took the sedatives?” Sadly the reset doesn’t fix anything. It’s basically the movie changing course and bowing down to every predictable expectation and outcome.
The sad thing is we get really good efforts from the cast but they mostly go to waste. The writing ranges from adequate to juvenile to mind-numbing and not one single character makes it out unscathed. The closest is Frey’s Bryan who is fun to watch and provides the film’s lone laugh-out-loud moment. But even he gets hit with a lame, tawdry bathroom scene that is nothing short of embarrassing. On the other end you get Mustafa’s Chaz who is hands-down one of the worst characters I’ve seen in ages. His one-note blathering about his bedroom insecurity never stops.
Others do the best they can with what little they’re given. Claflin shows some legitimate leading man chops, but he’s handcuffed by a script that would rather bounce him from one absurd scenario to another instead of letting him set his feet and build his character. Munn has always had a fun and witty personality, but this movie barely utilizes it. And by never playing to her strengths she’s left spinning her wheels with a character who never moves forward. And then Tomlinson, an eye-catching actress I wasn’t familiar with but who definitely deserved better material.
Strangely, “Love Wedding Repeat” isn’t a boring movie. It actually keeps your attention. You just keep waiting and waiting for it to get better only to be frustrated when it never does. I found it easy to root for the cast who deserve a ton of credit for keeping the film afloat. But even they can’t sustain it among a deluge of half-witted gags, crass and shallow dialogue, and uninspired storytelling. It’s a baffling experience. So many good parts are in place, but without the underpinning of a good story and good direction there’s nowhere for it to go but down.
VERDICT – 1.5 STARS