It’s not a bad idea in these dark days to provide sheltering audiences with a light-hearted romp. What a shame then that the soufflé writer-director Dean Craig labors to construct in Love Wedding Repeat sinks early on and never recovers. Instead of a fresh take on Four Weddings and a Funeral, Craig offers a shameless ripoff of that 1994 rom-com classic without a trace of its champagne fizz. Remember Hugh Grant, hair-tousled just so, in his star-making role as an Englishman who falls for an American beauty (a radiant Andie MacDowell) at one wedding and meets her fiancé at a second? Well, here we go again — with precious little to show for it.
In Love Wedding Repeat the Brit is Jack (Sam Claflin), the Yank is Dina (Olivia Munn), and they stick to one wedding. The funeral? Craig did do the script for Death at a Funeral, both the 2007 Brit version and the 2010 American remake, so there’s that. The wedding in question is set in a glam villa in Rome, so thank you Italy and cinematographer Hubert Taczanowski for the lovely lensing. The bride is Jack’s sister Hayley (Eleanor Tomlinson, the Poldark star deserves so much better). Amanda’s big day is crucial for Jack as well. Three years before, Jack casually met Dina, a war correspondent, and felt a deep attraction he never acted on. The wedding is a second chance. Will he step up and snare the gorgeous journalist before she takes off on her next assignment? The actors need to make you care. And due to circumstances beyond their control (the script and direction), they don’t. Claflin’s blond curls and dreamboat looks scored him a breakthrough as Finnick Odair in The Hunger Games franchise. But here he looks lost and uncomfortable, visibly straining to capture the charm that Grant exuded effortlessly in Four Weddings. The gifted Munn, a former correspondent on The Daily Show and a standout on The Newsroom, fares better. But she’s up against a plodding plot that pits delicate feeling against overwrought farce. Guess what wins?
Craig loads on characters and incidents in a desperate effort to hold our attention. Before Jack can get a minute alone with Dina, he’s distracted by the presence of his wicked former fiancée, Amanda (the dazzling Freida Pinto stuck with no note of bitchiness to play). Despite surface bitterness, Amanda still loves him and seems to hate her new guy Chaz (Allan Mustafa), a jealous idiot obsessed with penis size and his own shortcomings.
More complications ensue involving a sleep sedative that Hayley begs her brother to slip in the drink of coked-up Marc (Jack Farthing), an ex of Hayley’s who crashes the wedding to win her back or at least wreck her day by publicly announcing that he and the bride shagged just a few weeks ago. Naturally, the sedative winds up in the wrong cocktail. That belongs to Hayley’s aspiring-actor friend Bryan (Joel Frey), who she insists on calling her maid of honor (these are the jokes, folks). There’s also a twit (Tim Key), who is not Scottish but wears a kilt that leads to much groin scratching.
Had enough? Craig shows no mercy. Instead, he pulls a Groundhog Day and hits the “repeat” button in his film’s title, contriving to tell us what would happen if someone else drank the tranquilizer. Incredibly, the following series of what ifs prove even stupider, sappier, and more unendurable. There’s a bit where Bryan shoves Jack’s fingers down his throat (don’t ask) which a shocked Dina mistakes for a blowjob. For those who mistake Love Wedding Repeat for a comedy with actual laughs, consider yourselves warned.