License To Wed

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: -1/2

Content: -2

Robin Williams, Mandy Moore, John Krasinski, Eric Christian Olsen, Christine Taylor, Josh Flitter. Written by Kim Barker and Tim Rasmussen & Vince DiMeglio. Directed by Ken Kwapis. Comedy.

FILM SYNOPSIS: License to Wed follows newly engaged Ben Murphy (John Krasinski) and his fiance, Sadie Jones (Mandy Moore), who has always dreamed of getting married in a traditional wedding at her family church (though she hasn't attended in ten years). The problem is St. Augustine's only has one wedding slot available in the next two years, and its minister, Reverend Frank (Robin Williams), won't bless Ben and Sadie's union until they pass his patented, foolproof marriage-prep course. Through outrageous classes, outlandish homework assignments and some pious manipulation, Ben and Sadie are about to find out if they really have what it takes to live happily ever after.

PREVIEW REVIEW: What's comedy to one person might be hackneyed dreck to someone else. If you laughed at the trailer for License to Wed, then you may be one of those who will find the film enjoyable. Keep in mind, however, you will have already seen most of the major attempts at humor. If you cringed at the off-putting irreverence and stale jokes in the commercial, then youve already been warned. As for me, I now have a contender for my Worst of 2007 list.

I'm sorry for being flippant. Humor is the toughest thing to do in movies. And certainly, Mr. Williams has proven himself to be a comic genius. But the humor here is groan-causing. Reverend Frank says, "May I be frank? Oh, yes I can, I am Frank." When he is invited to a food tasting, he looks at the cheese and says, "Praise Gouda." When introduced to Ben, he asks "And what do you do, besides little Sadie." He gets how much money for these sophomoric gags?

I suppose the concept of Robin Williams playing a priest was amusing to those who read the script, but his irreverent reverend is bizarre to the extreme. What's more, it takes the white collar to remind us that this is a man of God, as there isn't the slightest hint as to that calling in his speech or demeanor. In fact, he seems a bit unhinged, like maybe he's related to that psycho in "One Hour Photo." He not only vomits out off-color jokes to his congregation, he makes inappropriate comments to a class of little kids he's teaching about the sins of adultery. Adultery to a group of 8-year-olds?

Other humor ranges from lame to nearly blasphemous, as in the scene where he prays over a victim's broken nose. For some reason he has thrown a hard fastball to an unprepared catcher. There doesn't seem to be much concern for the wounded man, Williams simply takes the opportunity to do a mocking rift on faith healers. Everything he does during his marriage testing courses discomfort and hurt feelings. For example, he gets the family to play a word association game, which we know is going to lead to confrontation. Things are said that would be difficult to forget and only those without the slightest control would say them. I know, this is supposed to be a test, but it doesn't ring true. Nothing rings true. There isnt one honest emotion or three-dimensional characterization in the entire film.

Oh, and you've seen the kid following Father Frank around in the trailer? The priest is supposed to be some sort of spiritual mentor, as if the 10-year-old is planning on entering the priesthood. This is bizarre in itself, but when Father Frank and this little hobgoblin bug the couples apartment (yes, the couple lives together) and are seen listening in as if they were working for the FBI, it becomes downright sick.

Then there's the scene where Father Frank is asking the couple to discuss their sexual fantasies in front of him. She is uninhibited, revealing positions and rooms where she wants to frolic, the young man finding that strange. Gee, I wonder why?

The subject of a young couple entering into wedlock is ripe for incisive satire, but here we are given nothing of true substance or clever wit. And Robin Williams shouldn't be playing a pastor. He should see one.

Video Alternatives: Here are several films featuring positive portrayals of ministers. Stars In My Crown, A Man Called Peter, The Scarlet and the Black, One Foot in Heaven, The Bishops Wife, Tender Mercies.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Warner Bros.

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Many crude, offensive gags, mostly from the Reverend Frank. Some of these comment are made in front of kids. Some potty humor as the couple carry fake baddies around, these machines poop and spit up.

Obscene Language: Three obscenities (the s-word) and five or so minor expletives (damns and hells)

Profanity: The husband-to-be utters Jesus a couple of times in frustration.

Violence: Some slapstick humor, including a man hit in the nose with a baseball. Blood: A bloody nose.

Sex: It is implied that the couple have sex outside marriage. They live together.

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Many crude sexual terms, again, mainly from the Robin Williams character

Drugs: Several of the relatives appear to have a drinking problem.

Other: Besides being somewhat dismissive to the calling of pastorhood, some of Mr. Williams comic riffs border on sacrilegious.

Running Time: 90 minutes
Intended Audience: Older Teens and Adults

Click HERE for a PRINTER-FRIENDLY version of this review.