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License to Wed (A Movie Review)

Updated: Aug 4, 2022

License to Wed


Starring John Krasinski, Mandy Moore, Robin Williams, Eric Christian Olsen, Christine Taylor, Josh Flitter, DeRay Davis, Peter Strauss, Grace Zabriskie, Roxanne Hart, Mindy Kaling, Angela Kinsey, Rachael Harris, Brian Baumgartner, Jess Rosenthal and Nicole Randall Johnson.

Screenplay by Kim Barker, Tim Rasmussen and Vince Di Meglio.

Directed by Ken Kwapis.

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. 90 minutes. Rated PG-13.

One of the great things about the NBC series The Office is that it always subverts its craft. It never feels like just another situation comedy. The rhythms are different, as are the characterizations and they never just throw out jokes – all humor is dependent on the individual and plots.

That makes it doubly disappointing that License to Wed – which was directed by Ken Kwapis, who has helmed many episodes of the series, has the male lead played by one of the breakout actors from the series and has several supporting and cameo roles by the show’s co-stars – could feel so much like a long, bad, sitcom.

As you can tell by the awkward title (everybody knows the actual term is “Marriage License” – why the tortured attempt to suggest a James Bond title with the name?), this is another one of the supposed feel-good wedding comedies that Hollywood has been foisting on us for about a decade. There have been dozens – ever since the studios realized that you just have to mention marriage in a title to get a good female response. However, while some of the early ones were actually good (Four Weddings and a Funeral, My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Wedding Singer…), most of these have been crap. License continues the chain.

License to Wed is the story of Ben (John Krasinski) and Sadie (Mandy Moore), a young couple with old names who meet cute (and totally unconvincingly), fall in love way too fast (again, completely unconvincing) and decide to get married.

Of course, in these movies true love is never allowed to run smooth, so they must run across a complication – in this case it is in the form of Father Frank (Robin Williams.).

Frank is supposed to be a hip preacher who is beloved by his congregation. We are supposed to know this because he shares parishioners’ embarrassing secrets from the pulpit and teaches the kids the Ten Commandments complete with a mini set of Family Feud (yeah, that happens…).

When Sadie insists on getting married at her childhood church, they must pass Father Frank’s wedding course before he will perform the ceremony. Father Frank constantly makes inappropriate remarks (mostly sexual), pries, snoops, tries to start fights (in the name of communication) and even bugs the couple’s apartment.

Father Frank keeps insisting that marriage is a constant challenge and you must be ready for everything it throws at you. However, that doesn’t change the fact that most of what he does feels a little creepy and sick – and again, not the least bit realistic.

Father Frank is just the latest in a disappointingly long line of Williams’ performances which point out the manic energy of the star has gotten rather old and stale. Of course, if he seems even more wired than usual, remember that this was the film Williams was making last year when he had to commit himself into rehab.

In the roles of the couple, Moore and Krasinski only do slightly better. Moore once again shows herself to be a charming and sweet presence onscreen – though she is really going to have to be more careful about the scripts if she ever wants to be a real film star.

Krasinski’s low-key everyday-guy manner – which is why he works so well in the ensemble of The Office – unfortunately works to his detriment as a lead character. He fades into the background way too much and the audience can’t quite warm up to him. Even when he gets angry or passionate it seems polite and restrained. If he really wants to make the leap to movies, he will have to expand his palette.

Then again, like Moore, if he really wants to make it into the movies, he’ll have to find better vehicles than this.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2007 All rights reserved. Posted: July 9, 2007.

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