After some memorable lead turns in "Out of Sight" and "The Cell", it is mystifying why singer/actress Jennifer Lopez (a.k.a J. Lo., for those in the know) would settle on a hopelessly contrived romantic-comedy such as "The Wedding Planner". Sure, it's got the potential to be an above-average date movie with its intriguing premise, where a wedding consultant falls for the groom of her client. Unfortunately, such a premise with promise is ultimately derailed by lackluster chemistry between Lopez and her co-star Matthew McConnaughey ("U-571"), as well as a script that requires the characters to have diminished mental faculties in order for it to work.
The titular wedding planner is San Franciscan Mary Fiore (Lopez), who happens to be one of the best that money can buy. Sympathetically bolstering the confidence of a nervous bride, barking orders to her crew through a radio headset, tracking down the FOB (wedding planner shorthand for 'father of the bride'), while looking calm and in control, is all in a days work for her. Despite her expertise in the marital world, she leads a rather lonely life, spending her nights alone, eating take out while "The Antiques Road Show" plays on the television. As she explains to others, 'those who can't wed, plan'.
However, all that changes when she is saved from being squished by a runaway garbage dumpster by a handsome young doctor named Steve Edison (McConnaughey). Steve then takes Mary back to the children's hospital he works at and gives her a clean bill of health. Upon seeing the dreamy man that just saved her bosses' life, Mary's worrywart assistant (Judy Greer, seen recently in "What Women Want") conspires to have the two spend an evening in the park, watching an old movie and dancing under the stars. Mary and Steve hit it off, and the magical night ends with the two would-be lovebirds almost kissing... only to be thwarted by a freak rainstorm.
The next day, Mary is gliding on air, convinced that she has finally found the right man. Unfortunately, when she meets the fiancé of her newest client, Internet entrepreneur Fran Donolly (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras of "I Know What You Did Last Summer"), the bubble bursts, because the groom happens to be Steve. With such a revelation, not only is her professional reputation put on the line, but also her promotion to partner in the firm, which rides on being able to win Fran Donolly's business. So, being the consummate professional, Mary puts her personal feelings aside, and stays the course with planning the wedding. However, because she must work in close proximity with Steve in hashing out the details, the initial mutual attraction only grows stronger with each passing day.
Romantic comedies, as a genre, are pretty predictable. Boy will meet girl, and through some struggle, which will often involve some deception, they will ultimately realize that they are perfect for each other and live happily ever after. However, even with such a rote structure, the magic of a romantic-comedy is created by how it gets the characters to that expected eventuality. How well do the personalities of the boy and girl mesh, and do they seem fated to be together? How difficult will it be to overcome the obstacles standing in the way of being together (what will they have to give up or sacrifice for true love)?
Unfortunately, "The Wedding Planner" is more like a mish-mash of 'cute' romantic-comedy type ideas that were thrown into a blender, without any attention paid to concerns such as logic or plausibility. Thus, you have pointless scenes such as Mary crawling on her hands and knees to avoid eye contact with an ex-boyfriend, or Steve being caught in a compromising position with a marble statue-- the sort of thing you would expect from a Sandra Bullock movie (such as "Hope Floats").
Furthermore, whatever shred of suspense there is in the story is essentially propelled by characters allowing misunderstandings to persist well beyond the limits of plausibility, especially when they should know better. Of course, if the characters actually did speak up and clear up the confusion, there would be no movie, as well as the need for such extraneous plot developments, such as Mary's would-be suitor from the 'Old Country' (Justin Chambers of "Liberty Heights") claiming to be her fiancé, or even the 'evening under the stars' confusion that sets the story in motion.
Another problem is the lack of credible chemistry between its two romantic leads. Jennifer Lopez is a fine actress, and despite being saddled with a character that seems to misplace her intelligence halfway through the movie, she has the range to make Mary seem more 'real' that the way she is actually written. Unfortunately, Matthew McConnaughey delivers a rather flat performance, and it is difficult to believe that his character is truly in love with Mary. Furthermore, given the behavior of his character, who spends an evening flirting under the stars without telling Mary he's engaged or proceeds with the wedding despite his newfound feelings, McConnaughey comes across more as a conniving weasel than a genuine love interest.
It's not easy to come up with an original romantic-comedy these days, and "The Wedding Planner" is a case in point. Loaded up with half-hearted comedic bits that seem like they were stolen from a Sandra Bullock movie, and fueled by its contrived attempts at generating heat between its two leads, "The Wedding Planner" ends being a tired romantic-comedy that should have been left at the altar.