Champaign Gets Air Time in Widely Publicized Romantic Comedy Starring Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson
by Laura Weisskopf Bleill
Raise your hand if you had “Champaign makes pseudo-cameo in Jennifer Lopez Valentine’s Day movie romcom” on your 2022 bingo card.
Unless you were on the production team, probably not.
It’s been hard to escape the hype for “Marry Me”, whose promotional blitz has been ubiquitous, especially if you’ve been watching the Olympics or are on social media at all.
In case you aren’t familiar, the movie is about a superstar singer (Kat Valdez, aka Lopez) who marries a complete stranger in a fake wedding at one of her concerts — and the relationship that ensues. The stranger, played by Owen Wilson, is a single dad who teaches middle school math in Brooklyn.
You’ll have to watch the entire movie, which is now playing in theaters and streaming on NBC’s Peacock channels, to see where Champaign figures into the equation. Although to be honest, we’re kind of befuddled about its star turn.
To summarize, without spoiling too much: the movie culminates with Valdez spontaneously traveling from New York City to a middle school math competition in Peoria, Illinois. But all the signs and the bus indicate that she has landed in a fictional version of Champaign, even though her ticket was to Peoria. (And no, they did not film anywhere other than New York).
Any of us familiar with Central Illinois will know that this doesn’t make sense. It’s pretty hysterical that they have an “airport map” of Champaign on a sign outside the door, and the airport shuttle says Champaign. Maybe this was a plot point that the writers didn’t fully develop, as the plane has some issues in flight. Instead, it left those of us in the know of Central Illinois geography giggling.
The movie is a fairy tale, after all. If the shoe fits, we’ll wear it.
Reviewers have not been very kind to “Marry Me”; it has been panned by most critics. Not exactly to the extent as other Lopez movies (such as Gigli, her first movie with Ben Affleck), but it’s not been well-liked. It’s been described as a two-hour commercial for Lopez’s personal brand, and deservedly so.
The original music produced for the film (which was shot in fall 2019) is clearly the star of the show. The ballad “On My Way” may already be familiar to viewers as Lopez released it last fall.
It’s not a complete loss otherwise. Where JLo shines is in the scenes where she engages with kids at Charlie’s school. A mom herself of teenagers, her connections with the younger actors are the most authentic and enjoyable part of the movie as it pertains to the acting.
My teenager cringed when she saw one of her middle school peers portrayed in the movie doing the “floss” and said it was corny. As far as appropriateness, there’s a small bit of bad language and some sexual innuendo. It’s rated PG-13; Common Sense media rates it 12+.
IF YOU GO: Marry Me is now playing in movie theaters or streaming via Peacock.
(And don’t try to find the airport shuttle. Sorry to disappoint.)