‘Irish Wish’ Review: Lindsay Lohan Stars in a Synthetic Magical Rom-Com Trifle, but Her Chemistry With Ed Speleers Is No Blarney

When two stars have “chemistry,” we tend to think of it as basic animal magnetism. And maybe that’s the essence of it. Yet when a romantic movie works, even a synthetic magical rom-com trifle like “Irish Wish,” what draws us into the chemistry isn’t simply the actors’ sexy connection. It’s that the two characters have chemistry, and that each actor has it with the audience. (In that way, screen chemistry is a bit of a threesome.) That’s the connection Lindsay Lohan and Ed Speleers have in “Irish Wish. The movie is as frothy as the foam on a pint of Guinness, as formulaic as the last disposable Netflix rom-com. Yet these two make you believe that they belong together, and not every romantic comedy does that.

“Irish Wish” takes place in a version of the real world flecked with fairy-tale fantasy. But before we even arrive at the mystical part, the first sign that the movie’s feet aren’t quite on the ground arrives in the opening scene, when Paul (Alexander Vlahos), a tall, dark, and handsome popular novelist, is greeted like a movie star, posing for paparazzi in front of a red-carpet event that turns out to be…a book reading. (His latest tome is called “Two Irish Hearts.”) If you want to know how ticky-tacky “Irish Wish” is, Lohan’s Maddie, who is Paul’s editor, walks into the event and runs into her two friends, Emma (Elizabeth Tan) and Heather (Ayesha Curry), and then picks up a copy of the book from a stack of them and says, “Heather, great job on the cover art!” “You like it?” says Heather. “It’s stunning!” says Maddie. The film seems to have no idea that an editor at a publishing house would already have been working on the cover directly with the designer.

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Maddie, whose editing is the secret weapon that’s made Paul’s book so good, is also secretly in love with him (or so she thinks). But just when she’s sure he’s getting ready to declare his feelings for her, he says something quite different. Flash-forward one minute, he’s engaged to marry Emma, and everyone is flying out to the Irish countryside for the wedding, in which Maddie is set to be a bridesmaid.

At the airport, she and James, played by the aforementioned Ed Speleers, meet cute at the baggage carousel, where each of them thinks the same suitcase is theirs. One playfully hostile bus ride later, she arrives at Paul’s palatial family estate, a villa that could rival Saltburn. That’s the first sign that Paul isn’t worthy of Maddie; the second sign is how quietly smarmy he is. But during a walk in the countryside, Maddie makes a wish upon a rock, saying that she wishes she could marry Paul. And that’s when a fairy godmother in a headscarf appears. It is Saint Brigid, the patroness saint of Ireland — and, in this movie, granter of wishes! Only her wish fulfillments tend to come with a catch. Maddie, in an instant, learns that she is about to marry Paul. But it’s not quite the love connection she was expecting.

James, that fellow she met, is a globe-trotting nature photographer — such a loner that he doesn’t even have a home — who has been hired to photograph the wedding. The two hop into his vintage red Triumph to pay a visit to the Cliffs of Moher, where he’s supposed to snap some pre-wedding photos of her. Instead, they get stranded in the emerald countryside (courtesy of a rainstorm and fallen tree blocking the only road). It’s here we see that Lohan hasn’t lost her ability to light up a scene; she has a seasoned radiance. And Speleers, who looks like a sandpaper-rough JFK with a sprinkle of Simon Baker, is the most charismatic British actor I’ve seen in quite a while. There’s a squinty Bondian cockiness about him. He and Lohan do a jig together at a pub, but it’s their dance of chivalry and brusqueness that takes wing.

The premise of “Irish Wish” is that Maddie is now about to marry Paul, even though she wasn’t meant to marry him. The movie is so literal-minded that the way this plays out is: She’s in an alternate universe where she barely knows the fellow she’s marrying — and that’s the problem. He has no idea that she idolizes James Joyce and loves to dance; she has no idea that he plans to go on having her basically ghost-write his books. But have no fear, Saint Brigid will keep the two of them apart — by throwing all sorts of delays into the ability of Maddie’s mother (Jane Seymour) to make the trip from Des Moines to West Ireland. And Maddie will soon be wishing for nothing so much as to have her wish undone. As a rom-com, “Irish Wish” is more than willing to kiss the Blarney Stone. Yet the chemistry of Lohan and Speleers makes it watchable enough to get by.

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