The Sam Claflin- and Olivia Munn-starring comedy is amusing, but why is it so afraid of its very smart concept?
Look, it’s right there in the title: love, wedding, repeat. At first blush, director Dean Craig seems primed to bring a rom-com twist to the sub-genre of timeline-bending adventures that easily slot inside all sorts of different narratives — from “Groundhog Day” to “Edge of Tomorrow” to this year’s “Palm Springs.” But “Love Wedding Repeat” spends far too long getting there, instead opting to dig into a cute enough comedy without any timeline weirdness for more than half its running time. By the time it inches into its second hour without so much of a hint of anyone reliving the same day over and over again, that title will only baffle even audiences enjoying the otherwise amusing wedding-set romp.
Based on the 2012 French comedy “Plan de Table,” Craig’s film eventually does kick into timeline tricks, utilizing them in such flimsy fashion that the conceit never gets a chance to blossom or charm. Too bad, because it’s a clever idea, and the film’s grating interest in ideas about chance and the general chaotic nature of the universe needs some reason for existing inside an otherwise straightforward story.
Still, there’s much to enjoy in the film’s first hour, which plays out a bit like an updated “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” It’s a chatty comedy populated by amiable leads and a constellation of wacky supporting stars, with an ill-fated would-be couple at its heart. That central story works well enough on its own terms, as Craig’s script ratchets up the weirdness and comedy as it zips toward a shocking (read: weird) ending. (And then, yes, finally flips back in time to right it… maybe?)
Three years before the wedding in question, Jack (Sam Claflin) and Dina (Olivia Munn) enjoyed a delightful weekend in Rome that ended in unsatisfying fashion. Both were in town to visit Jack’s sister, Hayley (a very funny Eleanor Tomlinson), but were thrown together instead, all the better to set up a burgeoning affection that was waylaid by dumb chance. Now Hayley is getting married, and Jack is hopeful that the lush Italian nuptials will allow him something of a do-over with the beguiling American. (The film’s central love story never really sings, because we never see the details of Jack and Dina’s first big kinda-date; as good as Claflin and Munn are together, the emotion is hamstrung by a lack of details about their time together in Rome.)
But Jack has bigger fish to fry, as he’s tasked with handling Hayley’s wild coked-up ex-paramour Marc (Jack Farthing), avoiding his insane ex (Freida Pinto), and attempting to keep Hayley’s “man of honor” Bryan (Joel Fry) from screwing up a delightful event with his well-meaning idiocy. Hayley has an idea to fix at least one of those problems: slip some of her heavy duty sleeping meds into Marc’s drink, and let him sleep through the blessed event. Ah, but dumb chance and crazy chaos have another idea, thanks to a pack of roving youngsters who delight in mixing up the place cards at Jack’s table (kids these days!), landing Marc’s spiked drink in front of an innocent bystander.
That alone is a funny bit, with poor Bryan slipping in and out of consciousness as the wackiness around him ramps up. Jack can’t quite get Dina alone, as she’s trapped in conversation with the dull Sidney (Tim Key). Insane ex Amanda is busy making mincemeat out of her dumb bunny boyfriend Chaz (Allan Mustafa). Jittery Rebecca (Aisling Bea) is just happy to be there (and near Bryan), and that’s to say nothing of the famous Italian movie producer skirting around the edges of the event or Marc’s very much awake state.
So, where’s the repeat? Long past the film’s halfway mark, Craig cleaves the story in two, cutting off a rambling, if entertaining outing, then suddenly remembering (oops!) that there’s a timeline flip in the mix. The film is already lackadaisically edited — rife with shots that never amount to anything at all, beholden to busy extras walking through a scene, and then through it again and again — which doesn’t help the change-up go down, and jars more than it entertains. Also weird: Craig only puts his cast through a single alternate storyline, shying away from all the obvious fun of this worn-out premise.
The stories are eventually linked by a high-energy montage of other possible twists, and they unspool with all manner of nutty outcomes against the backdrop of their overstuffed wedding table. Collectively, they hint at a wholly different film indeed, one in which the film’s biggest conceit is actually utilized to great effect. (During the credits, an entirely new set of would-be situations play out, with bigger and broader gags that are both amusing and baffling; why didn’t these make the final cut?)
What follows is not so different than the scenario that played out before, though it does boast considerably more shots of Claflin falling asleep. With such a nifty conceit wasted, he’s not the only one zoning out on the job.
“Love Wedding Repeat” is available to stream on Netflix starting today, Friday, April 10.