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'Love Wedding Repeat' review: Sweet, entertaining romcom offers welcome dose of escapism

Sam Claflin, right, and Eleanor Tomlinson  in

Sam Claflin, right, and Eleanor Tomlinson  in Netflix's "Love Wedding Repeat."  Credit: TNS/Riccardo Ghilardi

MOVIE "Love Wedding Repeat"

WHEN|WHERE Streaming on Netflix.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT A classic romantic comedy premise plays out in "Love Wedding Repeat," as a lavish wedding ceremony in sun-drenched Italy becomes the setting for the reunion of old flames, the kindling of new ones and slapstick foibles that perpetually threaten to ruin the day. 

The movie, now streaming on Netflix, is anchored around Jack (Sam Claflin), the brother of the bride Hayley (Eleanor Tomlinson), and Hayley's friend Dina (Olivia Munn). She's the one who got away after a fairy-tale European weekend three years ago and now has reemerged for the ceremony.

Other characters filling out the ensemble, each blessed with their own subplots, include Jack's ex-girlfriend Amanda (Freida Pinto), the kilt-wearing Englishman (yes, Englishman not Scotsman, a fact the script finds very funny) Sidney (Tim Key) and the goofy pal Bryan (Joel Fry), who provides much of the comic relief.

MY SAY We could all use a diversion right now and this film, written and directed by Dean Craig and adapted from the 2012 French film "Plan de Table," offers a needed one that hits all of the familiar and expected notes but does so well.

The romantic comedy genre has seemed to be in some trouble for awhile. There are relatively few recent examples of movies that have executed its formulaic underpinnings with the precision and intelligence that's been a hallmark of classics going back decades.

"Love Wedding Repeat" is certainly not destined to be remembered in the pantheon of the greats like "When Harry Met Sally..." or "It Happened One Night." It's not even as good as the similarly inclined "Four Weddings and a Funeral." But it understands its genealogy and knows how to push the right buttons.

We can see the gears churning throughout this movie, with the narrator (who sounds like Judi Dench, but is actually Penny Ryder) making hackneyed observations about the mysteries of fate and chance and the screenplay being padded out with a trite gimmick that allows it to double back on itself and illustrate those larger themes.

When Hayley's ex-boyfriend Marc (Jack Farthing) crashes the wedding and drugs become involved, it's clear that the filmmaker is straining for ways to sustain the comic antics.

But, let's be honest here: it's an impossible standard to expect any movie to live up to the very best examples of its genre. And it's perfectly possible to have a very good time watching "Love Wedding Repeat" even if you know exactly where it's going from its very first shot to its last.

That's partially due to an ensemble that is charming and game for the lighthearted happenings. Sam Claflin ("Peaky Blinders") is a fine actor who enjoys playing with Jack's lack of confidence, Munn ("The Predator") makes for an appealing counterpart who has a good time as the token American and the supporting actors, especially Joel Fry, have their moments.

It's mostly, though, due to the reality that the movie offers a welcome dose of escapism at a time when that's badly needed. It's impossible to completely divorce the experience of watching "Love Wedding Repeat," or anything else right now, from the reality of this epochal coronavirus crisis. There's a lot of merit in being able to sit back, relax and be taken away to a lighthearted romantic fantasy world. We could all use the break.

BOTTOM LINE: This is a sweet and entertaining romantic comedy that's hardly going to go down in history as a classic but offers some much-needed escapism.

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