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Take 5: ‘Shotgun Wedding’ Uses Tried-and-True Tropes For a Modern Action Rom-Com

February 10, 2023
4 min read time

Darcy and Tom are soon-to-be bride and groom and have chosen to have their luxurious destination wedding on a Philippines island. Unfortunately, the wedding guests are taken hostage by a group of pirates who want $45 million.

Now, it’s up to Darcy and Tom to save the day, even as these two characters are in the midst of a major falling out that could end their relationship. Shotgun Wedding can show screenwriters who love the action romantic comedy genre how to squeeze a unique concept from a familiar set-up.

Shotgun Wedding stars Jennifer Lopez, Josh Duhamel, Cheech Marin and Jennifer Coolidge. The film was written by Mark Hammer and directed by Jason Moore.

Here are five lessons screenwriters can take away from Shotgun Wedding.

  1. What are Action Romantic Comedies?

Action romantic comedies thrived in the 1980s. From Romancing the Stone to the first two Indiana Jones films, it became the ideal movie type to bring both men and women into the theaters as cineplexes popped up all across the United States.

Generally, the films start off with a man and woman who don’t get along but through their need to survive together they become close. The movie concludes just how a rom-com is supposed to…a kiss.

Shotgun Wedding is the latest adventure about a man and a woman forced into unconventional circumstances that involve fighting, shooting and fleeing the bad guys. Action romantic comedies are light-hearted and lean more toward the comedy than the romance with action that stays away from gore. One-liners and physical comedy are frequent, sexual tension is high and at least one of the characters (sometimes both) are in way over their head.

The arc involves shaking at least one character (often the female) out of their comfort zone. In Romancing the Stone, for instance, the lead female character who writes romance novels finds herself out of her element in Columbia with a dashing male character guiding her out.

There are a lot of action romantic comedies to check out if you’re planning to write one. This genre, just like any other, has tropes to consider and expectations of the audience, but just like any rom-com, part of the charm is the adventure of the two lead characters falling in love.

  1. Bickering Partners

Regardless of where the two lead characters start the story (on their wedding date or complete strangers), they must end up bickering through their adventure. It adds comedy and brings up the faults of both characters. In Shotgun Wedding, Darcy and Tom begin the story with an established relationship: it is their wedding. But one pivotal scene shows how not everything is steering toward happily-ever-after.

The bickering partners allows the couple to get under each other’s skin and cause the relationship to fall apart so it can be put back together for the happy conclusion.

It also is a great way to advance a story in the midst of an action scene. At one point in Shotgun Wedding, Darcy and Tom are alone in a hotel room as one of the bad guys are about to break in. The filmmakers use this moment to accomplish a few things: keep tension building as the two verbally quarrel about which methods they’ll use to escape the bad guy, show how the two don’t get along but must work together to succeed and set up a comedic bit.

  1. You Don’t Need an Elaborate Crime

Think about some of your favorite action comedies. What was the crime? It’s almost like it doesn’t matter because the focus isn’t necessarily on solving the crime but rather the relationship of the two main characters.

From buddy action comedies like Bad Boys to action rom-coms like Shotgun Wedding, the crimes in these types of films are not elaborate. Oftentimes it’s about drug dealers or thieves stealing money. If you’re looking to create a crime for your action comedy, take a look at how these types of films do it and how involved it gets.

Action comedies are about characters, not plot. Relationships, not crimes. Remember, the reason many of them have sequels is because the audience wants to see the characters on another adventure. The villains in Shotgun Wedding simply want money from the wealthy father of the bride — it’s not complicated.

  1. Single Location

Shotgun Wedding takes place mostly at a single location. It’s the resort island where the wedding is taking place with most scenes taking place within the hotel property. While a movie starring Jennifer Lopez might not feel like it needs to keep budget in mind, single location films can be a major benefit when an always budget-conscious producer reads your script.

Action films are hard to nail down in a single location so Shotgun Wedding is a great example of how to expand a story using minimal locations. Another prime example is Die Hard, which mostly takes place inside one building.

Another added benefit to having a single location is the element of being trapped. Darcy and Tom can’t leave the island removing the flight aspect in a ‘fight or flight’ response. They must fight.

  1. Don’t Forget the Other Stories

The main story is obviously Darcy and Tom trying to survive against the gun-toting villains but it’s important to cut away to a b-story. In Shotgun Wedding, that secondary story centers around the family and guests at the wedding who are held hostage as the bad guys look for the bride and groom.

But it’s not just filler from the main story. The supporting characters all have issues they’re dealing with (other than being hostages). Darcy’s parents are divorced and her father is dating a much younger woman. The best man and the maid of honor hooked up and now there are mixed feelings. And Darcy’s extremely handsome and wealthy ex-fiancée has arrived to be at the wedding as well.

What you can take away from these stories is how to build out extra conflict amongst characters, comedic moments and action scenes.

Shotgun Wedding is streaming on Amazon Prime.

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