"License to Wed" is the latest in a string of less-than-stellar films for comedian Robin Williams. The recent "RV" and "Man of the Year" were less than impressive and Robin's recent forays into thrillers and dramas have not been received warmly by the theater-going public. The actor has always had his ups and downs, but it seems a long time since he had the success he did with films such as "Mrs. Doubtfire," "Good Morning, Vietnam" and "Aladdin." Williams is an actor with a great range of talent and has shown his ability to handle more than comedy with films such as "The Fisher King," "Dead Poets Society" and "Good Will Hunting." It just seems that Williams has far more missteps in the past decade than he has had success. There have been too many films like "Death to Smoochy" and "License to Wed."
Former teen pop starlet Mandy Moore is Sadie Jones. Television's "The Office" star John Krasinski is Ben Murphy. The two had met in a coffee shop and since been long-time partners. Ben is an awkward sort, but Sadie comes from a well-to-do family and is the controlling partner in the relationship. During her parent's wedding anniversary, Ben steals his soon-to-be father-in-laws thunder and proposes to Sadie. Sadie's father makes a remark about this and pretends to be overjoyed at the news as he apparently feels Ben is beneath his daughter. Sadie is excited and although Ben wishes for a wedding in the Bahamas, Sadie tells him she has always dreamed of having the wedding at home and having longtime pastor Reverend Frank (Robin Williams) preside over the wedding.
They visit Reverend Frank and discover that he is booked up for two years and cannot marry them until then. After they show disappointment in this fact, Frank quickly remembers that he has a spot open in just three weeks. They agree to get married on that date and do realize that this puts a bit of a strain on things as they will have to speed everything up and rush to get preparations completed for the wedding. Frank also demands they take part in his premarital program that will help them become better spouses to one another. His young assistant (Josh Flitter) provides them with the thick course guides and the rules are outlined. One of the rules of the course is that they are not permitted to engage in any sexual acts. The have no choice but to accept the three week date and take part in the course.
As time passes, the course creates rifts between Ben and Sadie and they begin to nag at each other and expose each others' character flaws. Ben belittles her parents and even after discovering that Reverend Frank had even bugged their room, they cannot agree on much of anything and their relationship crumbles. Part of the course involved unusual group sessions where they pretended to be each other and situations where Frank forced them into conflict. The course seems to be a sick game for Frank and he continues to put them in situations where an unhappy outcome is guaranteed.
Eventually, Sadie flees to the Caribbean islands and Ben is left behind to try and come to terms with everything that has happened and how he has made mistakes. He did not write his vows and instead created a flip book of a monster truck jumping through a fire hoop. He also screwed up the ring and had the word ‘fart' on the ring instead of ‘part.' Frank exploited every flaw and destroyed their relationship. However, it seems that this was all part of Frank's grand plan and he boards a plane with his assistant and sets out for Jamaica. Ben decides to track down his beloved fiancée and write his vows in the sand. Sadie first rejects any attempt by Ben to communicate, but after missing him and realizing that she does in fact want to marry him they are married by Reverend Frank who simply claims he is ‘everywhere.'
When I first saw previews of "License to Wed" I thought this was a film with a lot of potential for Robin Williams. It appeared to be the kind of film where his manic humor could be left to run unchecked and zaniness and hilarity could run amuck. There were some genuinely funny jokes in the trailer and I especially liked the MC Hammer joke. Unfortunately, this proved to be a film where the trailer revealed all of the funny parts and Williams was more creepy than funny and his character's stalking was more disturbing than hilarious. Robin Williams tries to hard these days to play it safe. He doesn't need an R-rating to excel at tickling funny bones, but he just seems to lack the edginess that made him a star in the first place. In his more recent years, he is too tame to be funny and "License to Wed" is a fine example of how a comedy that isn't permitted to be funny can ultimately be quite boring.
The remaining cast members are a mixed bag. I personally did not care much for the performance of John Krasinski. He should stay with "The Office" and not try too many more feature films because he is not an actor that is ready to have a major role in a major film. I just found him to be bland and uninteresting. I also could not see his whiny and disorganized character mixing well with the likes of Mandy Moore's character. Mandy Moore was a pleasant surprise and showed that with a few more film roles she could be an affable and capable leading lady. I typically shy away from teen pop stars and their films, but Ms. Moore has successfully made the jump to being an actress. With Meg Ryan moving past the ‘young and cute' age where she ruled romantic comedies, Hollywood needs a new ‘it' girl and I could honestly see Mandy Moore filling shoes of that size. Nobody else notably stood out in any way with the exception of Eric Christian Olsen. Why didn't they just spring for Owen Wilson?
"License to Wed" isn't the worst comedy I have ever seen and I don't feel I was cheated of two hours of my life watching it. There were some redeeming scenes and once or twice Robin Williams shows hints of his former self. The few jokes that did work brought at least a smile to my face. The only problem is that this film just contains a few splashes of comedy, while the rest feels almost mean spirited and insulting. I'm still trying to figure out the purpose of Brian Baumgertner's character. I'm not sure if he was intended to insult fat people or just make light of somebody's food crazes. The premise of the film was good and with better execution, better writers and a different male supporting actor, this film could have been something. The rear packaging calls this film a ‘light-hearted comedy' and I couldn't agree more. It is just a little too light.
Mandy Moore is a very pretty girl and the Blu-ray release of "License to Wed" lets her look as good as possible in high definition. The VC-1 encoded film is highly detailed and quite colorful. I have absolutely no complaints with this presentation. Detail is strong enough to show the texture of concrete and clothing. The sandy beach at the end of the film shows individual pebbles. Facial features are prominently displayed and fleshtones are rock solid. This brings me to the colors, which are superb. Any film that prominently features a church has stained glass windows and what can be better to show off a transfer's colors than stained glass? They look incredible in this film and any other color translates nicely. Greens are rich. Reds are strong and exhibit no color bleeding. Blues are strong. Black levels are also good, but shadow detail never comes under question as there are hardly any darkly lit scenes. The source materials were in perfect condition.
The Uncompressed PCM 5.1 soundtrack for "License to Wed" is technically sound, but greatly suffers because of limited sound design. English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks are also included on the disc, but the PCM soundtrack is easily the best of the included options. However, with nearly all of the film's sound emanating from the front speakers, this is a less-than-impressive sounding film. I cannot recall hearing anything coming from the rear channels. The two smaller speakers were held silent by the limited soundscape of "License to Wed." Dialogue is nicely anchored in the front speakers and the spoken words are clear, but with so little happening in this film, it is not an overly impressive sounding mix. The Christopher Beck musical score is typical fare for a comedy and doesn't add much to the film. It is there to provide music and nothing more. I would have preferred a little more life to the soundtrack and aside from its limited nature, there is not any glaring problems with the soundtrack.
The Blu-ray release contains very little in the way of supplements for "License to Wed." I can understand why there was not a lot of effort in the bonus materials, but it is disappointing none-the-less. The Additional Scenes feature an optional Commentary by Director Ken Kwapis. The handful of scenes are interesting enough to watch, but would not have really added anything of value to the film. They seemed to be a little too silly at times, although I enjoyed the one scene with Josh Flitter calling out John Krasinski on the basketball court. The Ask Choir Boy supplement is an interactive ‘game' where viewers can interact with Josh Flitter's character. Josh Flitter had some good lines in the film and although there was little value to this supplement, it was mildly humorous and in all honesty, Josh Flitter was closer to old Robin Williams than Robin Williams was.
"License to Wed" had some entertainment value, but I can hardly call it a good film. If anything, I would say it was a disappointment as Robin Williams is just too tame to be entertaining. The last few films with the veteran funnyman have shown that he no longer takes any risks in front of the camera and his edge is gone. The same thing has happened to Jim Carrey, so Williams is not alone in being too family-friendly to be even a shadow of his former self. There are a few redeeming scenes in the film, but most of them were in the trailers. The Blu-ray features a very strong image, but has a typically limited soundtrack for a comedy. It is clean, but not very impressive in using the six allotted speakers. The supplements are very limited and hardly worth a revisit after watching them once. I hope Williams can return to form one day, but my hopes were only dashed with this film. If you'd ask for my recommendation on "License to Wed," I'd recommend you pass it over.