by Ken Bakely
The main gimmick of Dean Craig’s Love Wedding Repeat is that it’s essentially a work of alternate history, tracing one event through a number of possible outcomes, and all the mishaps that result. Centered around a lavish destination wedding in Rome, in which Jack (Sam Clafin) leads a set of caricaturish characters as they gather to see his sister Hayley (Eleanor Tomlinson) get married, the conceit that flows through each timeline is that Marc (Jack Farthing), Hayley’s coked-up ex-boyfriend, has crashed the wedding. His motives are at first unclear, but he is able to find a seat at Jack’s table, already filled with a number of other eccentric people. Hayley has instructed her brother to slip a sedative into Marc’s drink, in order to keep him from carrying out any potential embarrassments that he might have in mind. Of course, nothing goes as planned, and as the film stops and restarts, unplanned disasters of different varieties occur, as the sedative invariably finds its way to another unintended recipient, with the latest in a series of chain-reaction disasters unfolding. Jack’s hapless antics are like a car struggling to come to life, sputtering for a moment, sometimes for a few moments, before giving out. But in another sense, the film suffers the same problem: through all this chaos and comic disorder, the movie fails to find sturdy footing to even things out. Fleeting moments of success which actually prove frustrating, since it makes one consider what could have been with a more disciplined script and execution to guide its high concept.
Oddly paced and strangely realized, Love Wedding Repeat never gains any real sense of direction. It starts out with a nearly hour-long segment detailing the first rendition of the proceedings, pitched with broad farce and flat characters. Craig’s screenplay eventually tries to corral the film into something more traditionally aligned with the romantic comedy tropes by the story’s final incarnation. It’s not that the movie ever truly fails on a mechanical, note-to-note level, but that it never rises above the most rudimentary of levels, and feels perpetually uncertain of what to do with itself. Subplots, involving other characters at a table – including Sidney (Tim Key), a hapless office worker, trying and failing to flirt with Dina (Olivia Munn), an accomplished war correspondent, with his endlessly awful conversational skills – reappear throughout, and demonstrate the gap between the characterizations at hand. Dina is a key character, but has little depth; most of what we learn from her comes from wayward lines in her scenes with Sidney, who never arrives at anything more than a one-dimensional foil. Both of the actors deliver solid performances, but it seems like they’ve come from entirely different movies in entirely different contexts. It’s hard for anyone’s character to come through as well-developed or even congruent in this sense, because as capable as the cast may be, the scripting doesn’t give them a chance to soar.
It’s not compelling on the surface, and after we struggle to engage from the start, there’s nothing that can permanently bring us in later. Love Wedding Repeat is missing a lot on a very fundamental level, as Craig can’t connect his many ideas and approaches to this material into anything truly cohesive and singular. The jokes don’t land and the plotting doesn’t flow. It just exists on the screen, never so abhorrent you want to rush to turn it off, and never so inspired or considered that there’s a reason to recommend it. It moves awkwardly, with no real rhythm or synergy, playing as a cluster of haphazardly assembled ideas, each of varying levels of interest and development. There really isn’t much to say after a certain point, as it coasts on tropes performed without any desire to freshen them up. Even when things are supposed to come to a head in that final iteration, the scripting is as thin as the most absurdly silly slapstick that’s come before. Above all, there’s a tiredness that comes through before anything else, which can’t be saved by any of the film’s individual credits – from the gameness of the cast to the picturesque, well-captured setting. More often than not, it’s just dull.