...painfully bland.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.

Does anyone remember when the last time was that Robin Williams starred in anything even remotely funny? Raise your hand. When was it? "RV"? "The Big White"? "Death to Smoochy"? "Bicentennial Man"? "Patch Adams"? "Flubber"? "Jack"? All right, I'm already back ten years. Meanwhile, during this same period Williams proved far better in serious dramatic roles: "The Final Cut," "Insomnia," "One Hour Photo," "Good Will Hunting." I'm not sure what to make of this, except that 2007's "License to Wed" continues the trend.

In this presumably romantic comedy, he plays the Reverend Frank, an unorthodox pastor, to say the least. People seem trust him with their personal lives, although the story shows us nothing that would support their faith in him. He is, in fact, pretty creepy.

A young couple, Ben Murphy (John Krasinski) and Sadie Jones (Mandy Moore), go to Rev. Frank to marry them. They go to him because Rev. Frank has been the pastor in the Jones family since as long as anybody can remember. He's more like a faithful family friend than a minister, and good marriages are a part of Rev. Frank's business. Or so he says.

Reverend Frank agrees to marry Ben and Sadie in three weeks, but on one condition: The young couple must participate in a marriage preparation course, the main rule of which is "no sex until the honeymoon." Since Ben and Sadie have been living together for some time, this is a major obstacle they need to overcome. The rest the rules are even harder.

Apparently, the filmmakers' plan was to take a non-funny script, hand it to the improvisational Williams, and let him inject some much-needed life into it. Unfortunately, not even the talented Mr. Williams could make a silk purse out of this sow's ear, and the pedestrian guidance of director Ken Kwapis ("The Beautician and the Beast," "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants") does nothing to help matters.

Let me give you some idea of what I'm talking about: Rev. Frank makes sexual innuendoes at every turn, even to his youthful Sunday School class, but as the movie bears a PG-13 rating, they are never risqué enough to be outrageous or shocking or zany. When folks are late to church, the Reverend embarrasses them from the pulpit. As a part of the pre-marriage program, the Reverend gathers couples together in the back of a bar and teaches them to argue effectively by yelling and screaming at each another. Then he encourages these couples to fight with their future in-laws. When verbal abuse fails to get a laugh, the script resorts to hitting people in the face with baseballs, stepping on people's feet, or simply having people fall down. Honestly, these feeble attempts at humor are rather pathetic.

To keep an eye on Ben and Sadie, the Reverend goes so far as to bug their apartment and then sit outside in a van with his assistant and protégé (Josh Flitter), listening in on their intimate conversations and nighttime activities. Besides this operation being illegal, it's perverted.

From that point on, the movie only gets worse. Sadie's rich, pampered family appear as stereotyped clones, and Sadie herself acts like an idiot for slavishly believing in the equally idiotic Reverend's methods. Williams never has an opportunity to open up, Mandy Moore attempts an unnecessarily cutesy characterization, and John Krasinski's character is simply vapid. The only character in the movie who behaves normally is Ben's friend Joel (DeRay Davis), who gets practically nothing to do.

The filmmakers might better have called "License to Wed" something like "License to Kill," since it could induce an audience to die of boredom. Or perhaps "License to Weed," since it seems so useless. The movie contains no laughs, no humor, no romance, no fun, no nothing. Indeed, it is painfully bland, reminding one of any TV sit com cancelled after the first three episodes. And you know it's bad when there are more interesting things happening during the outtakes in the closing credits than in the movie itself.

WB give you the choice of standard or widescreen viewings. The standard-screen format is a 1.33:1 pan-and-scan rendering that cuts out over forty percent of the image left and right. Needless to say, I watched in widescreen, where the video engineers retain the movie's original 2.40:1 aspect ratio in a high-bit-rate, anamorphic transfer. The colors are quite brilliant but somewhat dark, too, with faces often leaning toward the orangish. Still, when the colors are on target, they're as deep and rich as good color should be. It's just that they're too much so. Black levels are deep and solid, and definition looks fairly precise for a standard-def presentation.

There's not much to say about the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. It does its job, but its job is next to nothing. It has to reproduce dialogue mainly, so the clarity of its midrange is helpful. There is virtually nothing in the surrounds, and the stereo spread only widens during some occasional choir segments and a few instances of background music.

There are two primary extras. The first is a twelve-minute series of additional scenes with optional director commentary. Nothing new here. The second extra is an interactive feature called "Ask Choir Boy," where you choose which phone-in questions the choir boy will answer on a phony radio show. Nothing interesting here, either. Things conclude with several trailers for other Warner Bros. products at start-up only; twenty-four scene selections but no chapter insert; English, French, and Spanish spoken languages and subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.

Parting Shots:
The only smart move anyone makes in "License to Wed" is when Ben punches out the Reverend. If he had done so in the first five minutes of the film, we wouldn't have had to endure the rest of this misguided affair.


Film Value