License to Wed (2007) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual humor and language
Running time: 90 min.
Cast: John Krasinski, Mandy Moore, Robin Williams, Eric Christian Olsen, Christine Taylor, Josh Flitter, DeRay Davis, Peter Strauss, Grace Zabriskie, Roxanne Hart
Director: Ken Kwapis
Screenplay: Kim Barker, Tim Rasmussen, Vince Di Meglio
Review published July 12, 2007
Another Ben Stiller-esque comedy that sees a man lose his nerve time and again by being subjected to a force that only he can see the evil of, while everyone else thinks he's the one that's ill mannered. License to Wed is a one-joke premise that wears out its welcome early, and though not entirely unwatchable, it never rises above its mediocrity to distinguish itself from the plethora of also-rans in the emasculated male comedy genre. Although cast chemistry is always an ambiguous thing to gauge in a film review, you won't find many who won't agree that the chemistry between the two lovebird leads is thoroughly lacking. It's hard to feel that these two should be together when they don't really exude that "would die for the other" attitude that they are supposed to espouse, being the couple madly in love.
The perfect couple in question, Ben (Krasinski, Shrek the Third) and Sadie (Moore, American Dreamz), are set to get married. Sadie wants to honor her family tradition by getting hitched in the family church, St. Augustine's, where 100% of the couples have been married without divorce. The only available slot within the next two years happens to be in three weeks, which they reluctantly accept, although on one condition: the couple has to undergo a program whereby the two get to know one another in other capacities to ensure that they are truly meant to be together. The wacky minister, Reverend Frank (Williams, Night at the Museum), presiding over the trial has a few rules: they both have to write their own wedding vows, they must attend and participate in all the pre-nup functions, and there is to be absolutely no sex until marriage henceforth. As Sadie plays along with the games, Ben becomes increasingly irritable that the Rev. Frank appears to be intentionally driving a wedge between the couple by making his do and say things to anger his fiancé. Soon, the two engage in a tug-of-war that may cost Ben his marriage.
Here's where I regurgitate my time-honored rule of thumb when it comes to films starring Robin Williams, but it proves true once again: Robin Williams in a drama = good, Robin Williams in a comedy = bad. Robin Williams continues to be in films that not only aren't funny, but he also isn't very funny in them. His role here alternates between bland and strange, and we never really see him as a real character -- he's always Robin Williams in a preacher's collar, except not that funny. John Krasinski, while not bad in his role, is virtually inconsequential in the comedy department. Mandy Moore fares little better, and it doesn't do the film any good that her role is written so as to paint her character as a self-centered idiot who will go along with anything, regardless of the people it may jeopardize.
I won't say the film is devoid of amusement, but it does feature a few scenes that are meant to be funny, but are more disturbing than anything else, and make us dislike the characters we're supposed to be rooting for. One plot contrivance has the couple taking care of robot babies that cry, poop and pee like real babies do, with the punch line to the whole experiment being a department store tantrum on Ben's part where he smashes the mechanical kid mercilessly until its head pops off (to the astonished looks of those around him who are not aware it's a fake kid).
Then there is a scene meant to foster trust between the couple where Sadie is blindfolded and Ben, in the backseat of a car, tells her what to do as she drives. Not only is this scene not funny, but we wonder what value there is in jeopardizing the lives of innocent pedestrians, with whom they have several near run-ins, for the sake of a needless experiment by a supposed man of God. I haven't even mentioned the preacher prying to squeeze out Ben and Sadie's sexual escapades, or a game of catch where the reverend is out to intentionally maim Ben, rather unapologetically joking about busting his nose though a mock healing ceremony. What an a-hole!
Romantic comedies are the easiest kinds of movies for film critics to review. All we have to ask ourselves are two questions: is it funny, and is it romantic? With gags that fizzle more than they fire and characters that we care just as little in seeing together as when they drift apart, it's a safe bet that License to Wed is a failure in both major departments, and consequently, it provides only momentary distractions rather than true entertainment value.
©2007 Vince Leo