Judge Ryan Keefer asks aloud, what kind of God would have allowed this movie to get made?
First came love…then came Reverend Frank.
What do you get when you throw in an annoying, loud, once great comic talent with two semi-blossoming comic talents? You get an hour and a half of something called License to Wed, a film that's so good, less than one of ten movie critics have given it a positive appraisal. It's out on video now, and you know you want to see it, right?
Facts of the Case
Ken Kwapis (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) directs this tale of young love, from a story by Kim Barker (All About Steve), which he also wrote with Tim Rasmussen and Vince Di Meglio (Smother). Ben (John Krasinski, The Office) is in love with Sadie (Mandy Moore, American Dreamz), so much so that he proposes to her, and she says yes. The couple decides to have a church wedding. However, the minister of Sadie's church, lovingly named Reverend Frank (Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting) will not allow them to be married until they complete a "marriage course" which has them showing their bad sides to each other, along with the good. Ben decides to do the big wedding and the course, all for the sake of marrying Sadie, but it tests both of them past anything they ever imagined. Wow, that last sentence was so dramatic, wasn't it? I could make Shrek that dramatic and suspenseful if I had to.
I love and respect all of those fellow Judges in the Verdict offices. But once, just once, I don't listen to one of them, especially on something like this, and I get burned. And rather than take Judge Adam Arseneau up on his pseudo S & M offer when it comes to this film (I'm cheap and like my four dollars in my wallet), I went ahead and watched it on my own. And strange things began to happen. The air I breathed didn't seem quite as fresh, and the food I ate didn't taste quite as good. My mail came later and later in the day and I couldn't get anything done at work. Then I realized it was all due to watching License to Wed.
Seriously, how many more things aren't as funny as License to Wed? My wife crying, that's one. Puppies dying, that's two. So this film is the third unfunniest thing in my life, and I'm old. And you know what's frustrating about it? There were so many people in this film that could have turned it around and at least made it palatable, and for whatever reason, the decision was made to bring in Robin Williams and he becomes the de facto center of attention for most of the film. And the guy hasn't done anything funny in a starring role for a couple of decades. He's become the comedic version of Eddie Van Halen, a guy who stopped doing coke and cleaned up, and was never quite the same afterwards. Now, I'm not advocating anyone to take drugs or anything kids, but the simple fact of the matter is that Williams was like a top in the '70s and '80s, got wise, and still thought he could do the same things that he could do before, which quite simply isn't the case. Anyone who can quote a line from a 1990 M.C. Hammer album where people find it funny is simply asking to get punched in the neck for being so out of touch. As for the Eddie Van Halen discussion, well, we'll save that for a more appropriate time.
The sad thing in this film is that Moore actually seems to try, she really does, to make something that audiences will at the very least tolerate. But her other half is Krasinski, who is hilarious in The Office, and he does pull off the occasional and all too brief Jim moment. But I think you can see his face change and he becomes more and more resigned to the fact that this thing is a turd on wheels, so why bother, you know? I think he realizes that with Williams here, the whole film is transformed into something that parents will see more than their kids, because Williams' next comedy stop should be in beautiful downtown Branson, Missouri, instead of the Improv or the Comedy Store.
From a technical perspective, the 2.40:1 VC-1 encoded transfer looks fairly decent. Depth in the image can be made out pretty frequently and the image is sharp for the most part throughout the film. The PCM soundtrack doesn't really provide anything new to the table, other than watching a bad movie in a lossless audio format, there's no bass, few opportunities for panning, things just stay in the front, which is perfectly fine with me. Thankfully, the extras are pretty brief too, as a group of deleted scenes is the biggie. Overall they last for 12 minutes, and aside from one scene actually being funny, like everything else in the film, it overstays its welcome and becomes unfunny before the end. A rather lame segment with the Choir Boy/Frank's Youth Apprentice follows, and I stuck it out for a couple minutes before casting it asunder.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Let's count the number of people from The Office that appear in the movie, perhaps as some way to assuage Krasinski's fears about how the film would turn out, I'm sure. You've got Angela Kinsey (Angela), Mindy Kaling (Kelly) and Brian Baumgartner (Kevin). And Grace Zabriskie (Big Love) appears too as Sadie's grandmother, but like most of the other names I've mentioned here, her appearance is all too brief and if any of these people were utilized a little more, the film probably would have been better than it actually is.
On many levels, License to Wed is just one big "sod off" to so many different people. I hope Krasinski's career isn't irrevocably harmed by this, because he seems like a nice guy, ditto for Moore, except for the guy part. If I'm a churchgoer, Williams' Reverend Frank is one big "f-you" to me. Comedic liberties aside, at least George Carlin's Cardinal Glick in Dogma was a little more transparent without all the bluster, so at least I could tolerate that. Pre-existing hatred of Williams' work aside, the guy is cynical, provocative and basically the opposite of what my impression of current priests are today. Thank goodness no droves flocked to this thing.
Hellfire and brimstone shall rain down on Williams, Kwapis and everyone else for agreeing to appear in this waste of time. Special dispensation to Krasinski and Moore, as the young and partially complicit should be temporarily excused.
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