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Marry Me (2022)::rating::3::rating::3

Movies like Marry Me ignite a battle within my soul.  The cynical side of my personality wants to bash this thing with a tire iron, as I scream how dopey, dippy, and utterly ri-goddam-diculous it is.  But go beyond my snarky outer shell, and you’ll find that I’m basically one of those oversized teddy bears you can win at the state fair.  Yes, I’m aware of the unabashed manipulation at work in Marry Me.  Yes, I’m aware that it has as much to do with reality as an episode of The Jetsons.  Still, as much as I wanted to throw down on this movie, I found myself drawn to its cutesy little fairy tale.

This particular bedtime story is essentially a riff on Notting Hill, the 90s chestnut with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant.  In this case, the pop culture queen is Kat Valdez, played by Jennifer Lopez.  She’s a global superstar, with platinum albums, millions of dollars, and an army of handlers who cater to her every whim.  As if all that wasn’t enough, Kat’s engaged to Bastian (Maluma), a hunky pop crooner who seems too good to be true.  Unfortunately, in the movie world, that means he is:  Just as Kat and Bastian are to be married in a worldwide TV event, word leaks that he’s been cheating on her.

Thus devastated, Kat wanders onstage and begins to ramble incoherently.  In her emotional desolation, she spots Charlie (Owen Wilson) in the crowd, plaintively holding a “Marry Me” sign.  He’s an amiable, middle-aged schlub–a math teacher who might as well have tweed patches sewn to his elbows.  Kat calls him up, and announces that she’ll marry him instead.  Confused and overly polite, Charlie shrugs and goes along with her wacky stunt.  An officiant cranks out a few vows, and suddenly these two randos are husband and wife.  In response, the world goes absolutely bonkers.

At this point, you might be thinking that Marry Me sounds dumber than a box of sheetrock screws.  Well, you’re not completely wrong.  But to its credit, this movie never tries to be anything more than the rom-com gooeyness it is.  You’ll either get a sugar rush from all this syrupy sweetness, or nothing at all.

In fact, adept viewers will spot many familiar ingredients in this sticky concoction:  Naturally, Charlie is a doting single dad. His plucky tween daughter Lou (Chloe Goldman) acts as her father’s confidante and emotional guide.  Both Charlie and Kat get the obligatory BFFs, who exist simply to hear the main characters rant.  For him, that’s Parker (Sarah Silverman), a smartass colleague at the school.  Kat relies on Colin (John Bradley, probably settling in for a long career playing puppy dog sidekicks), who is also her breathless, flummoxed manager.  There’s also an adorable pup, a scheming frenemy, and lots of montages on TV and social media.  You haven’t seen Marry Me, but you’ve also seen it a hundred times before.

But that’s also the cool thing about it. The real world is in such ugly shape right now, and this is the kind of cinematic comfort food they don’t make anymore.  There are few things more rewarding than being able to simply shut off your brain.  Wilson and Lopez make a surprisingly cute couple, and I found myself rooting for their awkward little romance to stay above water.  It goes on a smidge too long for a one-joke movie, but that’s also not a huge complaint.  In the end, I was able to suppress my inner grouch and enjoy 107 minutes worth of treacle.  If you can snap into the same groove, you might find Marry Me to be a startlingly decent distraction.

112 min.  PG-13.  On Demand.

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