It takes around 45 minutes for the central conceit in "Love Wedding Repeat" to reveal itself. That's much longer than it took for similar high-concept romantic comedies such as "About Time" (time travel) and "Yesterday" (alternate reality) to establish their inventive set-ups.
So by the time we've realised that the film's title is a reference to its time loop structure – this isn't a spoiler, by the way – you've either run out of patience at its relative mediocrity, or are too wrapped up in its comedy of errors to care about wonky second-act twists.
Watch the trailer of "Love Wedding Repeat" here
A charming young man, his venomous ex, her dumb new boyfriend, a girl that got away, a cokehead former lover and a big-shot filmmaker unite for a wedding in the idyllic Italian countryside. A vial of sleeping drops, like Chekov's loaded gun, is introduced.
The charming young man, played by Sam Claflin in proper Hugh Grant mode, is instructed by his sister – she's the one getting married – to spike her cokehead former lover's drink with the sleeping drops because he's going around telling everyone that they hooked up a couple of weeks ago. But a twist of fate – mischievous children messing about with seating arrangements – puts the spiked champagne not in the hands of the evil ex, but someone else entirely.
It doesn't take too long for a series of unfortunate events to snowball into a larger fiasco. But, a wise woman who sounds an awful lot like Judi Dench informs us in a voiceover, matters of love are nothing but a series of coincidences.
And so, at around the 50-minute mark, Love Wedding Repeat lives up to its title, perhaps inspired by the excellent Tom Cruise film "Edge of Tomorrow" (which was later re-titled Live Die Repeat), and resets itself. Once again, Jack is told to spike Marc's drink. Once again, the pesky kids mess with the name cards on the table, and once again, the wrong person passes out.
There's a lot to admire about Claflin's central performance – he's affable and kind as Jack – but Olivia Munn, as the woman of his dreams, is given little to do besides literally sit and look pretty, despite the film reminding us, on several occasions, that she's a war reporter.
However, it's Freida Pinto as Jack's snarky ex-girlfriend Amanda who delivers the standout performance. Together with her new boyfriend, the whiney Chaz, Amanda and her icy takedowns routinely liven things up. It is also worth noting (and admiring) that Freida has retained her native Indian accent for the role, which might not sound like much, but feels almost alien, given the number of times she has affected foreign accents in films.
There's an interesting movie somewhere inside Love Wedding Repeat, but writer-director Dean Craig simply can't chip away at the excesses of the story and get to the heart of the matter. For one, the characters are wildly underdeveloped, and are merely pawns in a larger chess game unfolding much too predictably. Compared to, say, the absolutely knockout About Time, whose high-concept thrills were mellowed by a genuinely moving story, Love Wedding Repeat feels too gimmicky to truly enjoy, and not nearly as snappily written as Craig's earlier hit, Death at a Funeral.
While that film had a slightly sinister edge, this one, like its idyllic Italian setting, feels like a relic from the past. But to some, revisiting the heyday of British romantic comedies would sound like enough of a reason to tune in, not to mention the added incentive of seeing the absolutely gutted Italy being portrayed in all its former glory. And after all, a new Netflix rom-com is always welcome.