License to Wed

Cast:
Robin Williams as Reverend Frank
Mandy Moore as Sadie Jones
John Krasinski as Ben Murphy
Eric Christian Olsen as Carlisle
Christine Taylor as Lindsey Jones
Josh Flitter as Choir Boy
DeRay Davis as Joel
Peter Strauss as Mr. Jones
Grace Zabriskie as Grandma Jones
Roxanne Hart as Mrs. Jones
Mindy Kaling as Shelley
Angela Kinsey as Judith the Jewelry Clerk
Rachael Harris as Janine
Brian Baumgartner as Jim

Directed by Ken Kwapis

Summary:
Another by-the-books exercise in formula romantic comedies with Robin Williams only being as funny as your ability to stand him doing the same thing he’s done in every single movie.

Story:
Ben Murphy (John Krasinski) and Sadie Jones (Mandy Moore) have been dating and living together for six months before he asks her to marry him, but when she insists on being married at St. Augustine’s Church, Ben meets the family minister Reverent Frank (Robin Williams), an eccentric kook who insists on putting them through his mandatory wedding counseling sessions before he agrees to marry them.

Analysis:
There’s a certain point where one has to stop watching and reviewing romantic comedies, and this may very well be it for me, because frankly, there’s just nothing new or original in the genre, something that’s painfully obvious while sitting through the latest chance for Robin Williams to ham it up with the same comedy routine he’s been doing for thirty years. Enough really is enough.

Directed by television director Ken Kwapis, “License to Wed” follows a similar formula as “Meet the Parents” or “Anger Management,” so if you’ve seen either one of those then you already know the drill. Ben and Sadie are brought together and they’re happy and ready to get married. An eccentric nut job is injected into their lives who begins to disrupt that relationship, things fall apart, and spoilers be damned, but you can probably guess that they’ll be back together eventually, having learned a valuable lesson. Frankly, if I were the head of a studio and a writer came to me with this exact premise again, I wouldn’t just have them ejected from my office, but I would have them barred from Hollywood. Sadly, this isn’t a practice that’s caught on just yet, and so we get to see the same premise used once again, only without nearly as much potential for humor.

This time, it’s used as a vehicle for Robin Williams to be the aggressor and whether you find Williams’ incessant schtick funny will make the big difference in whether you make it through this movie without gritting your teeth. Williams can have his moments of comedy genius, but he really needs a stronger premise and supporting cast than the one he has here, because far too often, the movie relies on Williams rather than its romantic leads Jon Krasinski and Mandy Moore.

Krasinski easily falls into the same nice everyman that he plays on “The Office” although he’s very much the straight man, having to react to Williams and get into a bit of obvious physical comedy, but he’s not a particularly good match with Moore, who seems entirely uncomfortable dealing with any sort of humorous situations. I’m not sure if I’d hit so low that Moore is one of the worst actresses currently getting work, but she’s easily in the Bottom 5 in the way that she seems incapable of merely acting the way a normal woman might in any given situation. There are a few funny bits as we watch Williams put Krasinski and Moore through their paces, the best one being Krasinski dealing with robot baby twins, but they’re few and far between Williams cracking jokes.

At least the movie has a couple saving graces, one of them being young Josh Flitter, who’s able to keep pace with Williams, and it’s fun seeing how Kwapis was able to sneak in a bunch of regulars from his show “The Office” into smaller roles, as well as a few funny moments from the ever-present Wanda Sykes and Bob Balaban. Then again, you might be scratching your head about why an actress like Grace Zabriskie would agree to take such a dog of a role as Sadie’s doddering grandmother.

The last half hour of this movie has to be the most grueling exercise in predictability as everything you’d expect to happen does and all the characters follow the exact path mapped out for them by appearing in this type of movie. No shock twists, no surprises and no real reason to have to subject yourself to this.

The Bottom Line:
In a summer where “Knocked Up” has raised the bar on romantic comedy, fans of romance and/or comedy deserve better than this formulaic cookie cutter dreck. If you can honestly look at yourself in the mirror having loved “Failure to Launch” or “Along Came Polly”, then you’re probably just as likely to laugh hysterically at the high concept situational comedy in this stinker.

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