In License to Wed, Robin Williams plays a minister who puts couples through flaming hoops before he’ll marry them. Sadie and Ben, played by Mandy Moore and John Krasinski, are blissfully in love but now find their relationship pushed to the limits, going so far as to call off the wedding in order to reevaluate their commitment to one another. About thirty minutes in, twenty if you’re lucky, you’ll realize that watching this movie approximates the feelings of anger and frustration that the couple experience, and you too will question your decision to follow through. Well, as the movie suggests, sometimes it’s better to part ways before both parties destroy any remaining affection.
There is so much to dislike that you’ll wonder why you started in the first place. Sure, it looks appealing – a romantic comedy starring effervescent Mandy Moore and loveable Jim from The Office plus the comedic fire of Robin Williams, but there are no first flushes of love. You quickly discover that it’s an uncomfortable three-way. The otherwise likable Sadie and Ben have hardly a moment alone before Minister Frank comes crashing in, and he immediately sours every scene, even when he’s offscreen.
Placing Williams at the center wouldn’t be a bad idea his character served a real purpose. That he wants to test the depth of their commitment is understandable. It’s not uncommon for minister (in this case, an interdenominational mashup of one) to enquire about a couple’s relationship before he or she marries them. But Frank’s involvement comes not out of concern but out of sheer spite. He appears to delight in tearing Sadie and Ben apart, egging them on in hypothetical arguments, forcing them to care for creepy robot babies, and forbidding them to have sex until the honeymoon. The obstacles he constructs are just mean-spirited, and one wonders if he has a hidden agenda, especially because he insists on stringing along his pint-sized assistant (Josh Flitter), supposedly a minister-in-training.
It’s easy to sympathize with Ben, and not just because he is played by John Krasinski. Sadie soon falls into the dark hole that so many women in romantic comedies do when she happily embraces Frank’s stunts, even chiding her fiancé for not taking their impending nuptials seriously. Of course the naïve girl is so swept away by this whole marriage thing that she can’t see the absurdity of driving blindfolded through New York’s streets, another one of Frank’s tests. It’s infuriating to see a sensible woman transform into an emotional loon for the sake of romance and comedy. So save yourself; don’t go through with it.
Prod: Mike Medavoy, Robert Simonds, Arnold W. Messer, Nick Osborne
Dir: Ken Kwapis
Writer: Kim Barker, Tim Rasmussen, Vince Di Meglio, Wayne Lloyd
Cast: Robin Williams, Mandy Moore, John Krasinski, Eric Christian Olsen, Christine Taylor, Josh Flitter, DeRay Davis, Peter Strauss, Grace Zabriskie, Roxanne Hart, Mindy Kaling
Time: 91 min
Country: United States