The Wedding Planner

Between being a Fly Girl and a pop diva, Jennifer Lopez had begun to establish herself as serious actress with impressive credits, working with the likes of Oliver Stone, Bob Rafelson and Francis Ford Coppola before breaking through with the double-barreled shot of Selena and Out of Sight. Meanwhile, Matthew McConaughey went from small, memorable turns in Dazed and Confused and Lone Star straight into a leading-man career, swooping up all the plum roles (Amistad, Contact) in Hollywood. So what happened? Call it the wages of fame.

Lopez and McConaughey both became more famous for their off-screen antics than their movies — and since fame perpetuates itself, they became even more famous for being famous. So what does this do to an acting career? It results in such safe, innocuous entertainment as The Wedding Planner, where this photogenic duo are tossed together in unlikely circumstances and romance is supposed to flower. It’s true, Lopez and McConaughey appear to be in love, but it seems to be more with themselves than with each other.

Mary Fiore (Lopez) is a wedding planner who has captured the essence of the ceremony — it’s a performance piece for nonperformers — and is on hand from the earliest preparations to the big day to make sure everything goes not just smoothly, but perfectly. Her control-freak precision appeals to a new client, the driven Internet food merchant Fran Donolly (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras) who wants her wedding to a pediatrician to put her in San Francisco’s social register.

Here’s where screenwriters Pamela Falk and Michael Ellis put in that movie spin: Mary has already met the groom-to-be, Steve Edison (McConaughey), when he dashed in heroically and saved her from being smashed by a runaway trash bin. Now they’re fated to bicker and eventually reconcile to the fact that they can’t live without each other, despite other suitors. (Justin Chambers, who’s endearing despite a spaghetti-commercial Italian accent, plays a Sicilian immigrant who woos Mary with the encouragement of her father.)

Director Adam Shankman, a former choreographer making his feature-film debut, stages the most convincing romantic moments between Lopez and McConaughey as dance scenes. An antagonistic tango crackles with an energy that’s missing from the rest of The Wedding Planner, where the inevitable bride and groom are more often as lifeless as their counterparts perched atop a multitiered cake.

E-mail Serena Donadoni at [email protected].

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