[Screen It]


(2022) (Jennifer Lopez, Owen Wilson) (PG-13)

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Kat Valdez (JENNIFER LOPEZ) is an international pop superstar who's set to marry similar megastar Bastian (MALUMA) with whom she's recorded the smash hit, "Marry Me." The wedding is to occur at her concert and be broadcast around the world thanks to the work of her manager, Colin Calloway (JOHN BRADLEY). Reluctantly in attendance is divorced middle school math teacher Charlie Gilbert (OWEN WILSON) who's there with his 12-year-old daughter, Lou (CHLOE COLEMAN), and his coworker, guidance counselor Parker Debbs (SARAH SILVERMAN) who had the tickets and encouraged Charlie to prove to his daughter that he can be fun.

Things take an interesting turn when Kat learns that Bastian cheated on her with one of her assistants. Shaken and making a rash decision, Kat decides to marry a random stranger at the concert and chooses Charlie. Sensing her despair and shock, Charlie goes along with that to comfort her, unaware of how that's going to change his life.

That's especially true when Kat says they need to make it seem real for at least a few months to keep her reputation from being further tarnished. As they initially go through the motions of doing public appearances together, the two eventually start to get to know each other, resulting in a budding romance, all of which ends up threatened when Bastian reenters the scene.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

Let's face it, mathematics in its stripped-down form isn't inherently sexy cinematic material. But with the right sort of spin with the storytelling, the result can be something like "Hidden Figures" of recent where math is used to solve a pressing space launch problem, or older offerings like "A Beautiful Mind" or "Good Will Hunting" that show, well, beautiful minds doing some good hunting for mathematical answers.

For the life of me, however, I can't recall a romantic comedy featuring math, although I'm sure I'm likely forgetting a few examples. Needless to say, it's surprising -- okay, it's really not, I just need to make the point -- that since both math and rom-coms are all about standard formulas, they'd seem to be a match made in cinematic heaven.

Well, for those wanting just that, "Marry Me" might be right up your entertainment alley as one of the main characters is -- yes, you might have guessed it -- a math teacher (played by Owen Wilson). And some of the plot revolves around getting his middle school students (including Chloe Coleman playing his 12-year-old daughter) ready for a big math competition.

When he's not doing that, Charlie must contend with being randomly picked out of the crowd by international pop superstar Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez) to marry her after learning moments before her pending nuptials that her fiancÚ and co-performer (Maluma) of the film's hit title song cheated on her with her assistant.

In what might be one of the most contrived "meet cute" moments ever to kickstart a film in this genre, Kat spots Charlie holding the "marry me" sign handed to him by his guidance counselor coworker, Parker (an amusing Sarah Silverman) and decides to answer his sign in the affirmative. Simply due to being an all-around nice guy hoping to help a devastated, would-be bride in full personal crisis mode, Charlie agrees and they tie the knot, with him believing that's that and he'll get on with his life.

But realizing she must do some damage control to her now ridiculed reputation, Kat needs her manager, Colin (John Bradley), to convince Charlie to play along for a few months until the world moves on to another celebrity scandal. All of which means occasionally getting together to do some publicity bits to show the world they're a married couple.

I'll admit that I figured there'd have to be more to their pairing than that -- such as them somehow knowing each other from the past, or pretty much anything before a decidedly too random and rash to believe act -- but the script by John Rogers, Tami Sagher, and Harper Dill (who've adapted Bobby Crosby's graphic novel of the same name) stays committed to the premise and proceeds from there.

And you know what? Despite the eye-rolling contrivance to end all such contrivances, not to mention the predictable and formulaic nature of everything that follows (including a somewhat weak "they need to break up" third act development), the flick from director Kat Coiro manages to win you over. Or at least me, and maybe your friend. Who knows, perhaps it will work its rom-com magic on you as well.

Those looking for any meta moments related to Lopez's real-life love life and career being poked at here will be disappointed, but there's no denying the similarities, and hey, her current beau (Ben Affleck) once starred in a film playing the best friend to that Hunting math genius, so there's that.

But what makes the film work -- albeit not in a remotely believable way -- is the ever-evolving and charming chemistry between the aw-shucks, all-around good guy and the more worldly and uber-organized superstar. Yes, it's all goofy fairy tale stuff, but aren't most rom-coms?

And while math usually comes off as cold and calculating in its formula-driven existence, films of this genre formulaically operate from the heart rather than the mind, and this one delivers in that regard and then some. "Marry Me" entertained me enough to get me to say, "I do" and thus rate it as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed February 9, 2022 / Posted February 11, 2022

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