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What is there to say about a romantic comedy that would have us believe Jennifer Lopez can’t get a date? What sort of movie would be foolish enough to suggest that a thirtyish knockout who also happens to be a successful businesswoman and a pretty good dancer is in imminent danger of becoming an old maid, unless she marries the first jerk to come along? Seemingly innocuous, secretly obnoxious, The Wedding Planner is that movie.
Lopez stars as Mary (Get it? Marry?) Fiore, the titular planner, who coordinates wedding ceremonies like she’s producing the Oscars. Equipped with a radio headset and a utility belt full of emergency provisions like breath spray and bottled water, she patrols through the aisles of wedding guests, barking orders to her ditsy assistant Penny (Judy Greer) and even prompting the best man’s toast at the reception. These duties leave Mary no time for a love life; as she tells Penny, "those who can’t do, teach, and those who can’t wed, plan." But all that changes when she encounters handsome doctor Steve Edison (Matthew McConaughey) through the Hollywood convention known as the "meet cute." The meet cute used to consist of a man and woman bumping heads while stooping to pick up dropped Christmas presents; in this case, it consists of McConaughey manhandling Lopez out of the way of a runaway garbage dumpster. Ah, romance.
Penny convinces Mary to invite Steve out for an evening of old movies under the stars in Golden Gate Park. They have a wonderful time and Mary is certain she’s met Mr. Right – until she learns that Steve is the fiance of one of her highest-profile clients. Complicating matters is the arrival of Mary’s childhood neighbor from Italy, Massimo (Justin Chambers). A clownish sitcom foreigner, Massimo still carries a torch for Mary, which delights her meddling father (Alex Rocco) to no end. Poppa just wants what’s best for his little girl, which in this case is an arranged marriage just like the one he had with dear departed Momma.
If there is a doubt in your mind as to which of these two creeps Mary will end up with, you’re probably visiting from the same century as poor old Poppa. The fact that she should steer clear of both the English-mangling stalker and the betrothed frat rat with the wandering eye appears to be lost on her. Of course, The Wedding Planner isn’t meant to be anything more than a cute date movie, a generic chick flick. It’s all very predictable and processed, but at least Lopez and McConaughey strike a few sparks to distract from the sheer ickiness of their characters’ relationship. Both stars have had curiously random careers to date. Lopez charmed in 1998’s Out of Sight, but her film work has been sporadic since (she appears more interested in her recording career). Since his breakthrough role in Dazed and Confused, McConaughey has bounced between ineffective star vehicles like The Newton Boys and U-571. Their chemistry here is palpable, but this programmer offers them few opportunities to click. The most potent one comes early on, with a testy tango overseen by an eccentric dance instructor played by Fred Willard. It therefore comes as no surprise to learn that director Adam Shankman has worked mainly as a choreographer up until now; only when his leads are dancing does The Wedding Planner come to life.