Anyone who has gotten married is more than familiar with the stress that comes with the shift from being just a couple to being a married couple. Over years you discover differences of opinion on all sorts of things you never had any idea you would disagree with your spouse on: political differences, how many kids you want to have, those sorts of mundane details that just happen to come up over time. License to Wed takes those kinds of differences and has one couple face all of them over a period of days and weeks, all courtesy of a special “marriage preparation course”.
The course is conducted by the irreverent Reverend Frank, played by a slightly less energetic than usual Robin Williams. Many people told me, after seeing the trailers for License to Wed, that it looked like more of Williams doing his usual spurts of stand-up comedy. This is only partially true. While Reverend Frank does have a couple of comedic eruptions, they are kept to a minimum. One gets the sense that Williams probably didn’t control himself any more than usual on the set of this film, but the editors just kept it out of the movie. The story pairs Frank with a cute little apprentice character to give Williams someone to play off of, but it doesn’t work, particularly because the kid is too young for Williams to have too much fun with. Instead the choir boy gives off a bit of a creepy Oompa-Loompa vibe, especially when he’s stalking the designated couple and planting listening devices. By the end I was hoping someone would stuff the kid in a storage chest, never to be seen from again.
The primary humor comes from the trials of Ben (John Krasinski) and Sadie (Mandy Moore), the couple who comes to Reverend Frank for their wedding. At first a perfect couple who has never had a single fight, the duo discover their own shortcomings as they endure Frank’s marriage course. Of course, many of the couple’s problems are apparent from the start. Sadie is a big organizer and wants everything laid out in its place while Ben frequently doesn’t get his way, conceding to make his girlfriend happy. Those aren’t the problems the movie’s story really tackles however, as the marriage course pits the couple against problems most couples learn to deal with over time – communication, the rigors of having children, etc. It’s mostly manufactured problems, compressed down to a time span that creates added pressure for the characters, crumbling their relationship. One has to wonder how long the characters will put up with this, but “for the sake of the marriage” they keep at it… or that’s why Sadie puts up with it. Ben puts up with it for Sadie, and that right there shows the biggest problem the two have. Alas, it’s a problem that’s never really addressed.
Let’s be clear: this is a romantic comedy and, if there’s anything I’ve learned from romantic comedy stories over time, it’s to not expect anything bearing any similarity to reality. That’s why plot devices such as having to choose between holding a wedding three weeks away or two years away don’t even faze me anymore. A couple accepting to put up with creepy robot babies that spit up and poop as part of the marriage preparation program? Sure, why not. Ben finally getting so fed up with the program that he starts to try and dig up dirt on the minister instead of talking things over with his girlfriend? Bring it on. There is humor here, but very little of it has much to do with the actual storyline; garnering laughter from moments like Williams’s banter and Ben’s reactions to things that really are irrelevant and unbelievable. The truth is, License to Wed rivals other silly comedies like Anger Management in ludicrousness. It’s clearly a fluff movie; quite possibly the king of fluff movies in recent years. You can check your brain at the door, because the movie just tries to play on your sappy emotions with some chuckles thrown in.
The big draw for License to Wed is John Krasinski, who’s really made a name for himself as Jim in the American version of “The Office”. Director Ken Kwapis is also an “Office” alum (director for a number of episodes) and clearly wants you to remember the television series as a selling point for this movie, so the film is stuffed with cameo appearances from most of the secondary cast of the show. An appearance from Steve Carell or Rainn Wilson might have gone farther than the less memorable members of the ensemble, but you work with what you can get, I suppose. For those who want to see this cute romantic comedy because of Krasinski’s affable “Office” character, fear not. This movie is essentially an hour and a half of that same performance, minus the not-so-subtle glances at the camera. For those who don’t like Jim Halpert or don’t know “The Office”, there’s really nothing lost by missing this movie in theaters. It’s the kind of cute little comedy you might leave on the television if it happens to be on, but there’s no need to go out of your way to catch it.