Review: License to Wed

I know "License to Wed" (IMDb listing) is supposed to be celebrating the miracle of love and devotion, but there's something mean-spirited about this production that turns my stomach.

Ben (John Krasinski, "The Office") and Sadie (Mandy Moore) are a young couple itching to be wed. When their wish is granted by the strict Reverend Frank (Robin Williams), he puts them on an accelerated marriage counseling schedule to meet their wedding date. Promising he's only looking out for their best interests, it doesn't take long for Ben to lose his patience with Reverend Frank, who resorts to spying and scheming to test the boundaries of their love, pushing Ben and Sadie to cancel the big day and break up.

"Wed" is intended to be one of those comedies that can embrace its silly side, yet tug at a few heartstrings with a lightening-fast portrait of pre-martial planning madness. It's simple to say the film fails both endeavors, but why it fails is difficult to explain. The picture is garbage, but the stink is sometimes beyond description.

Television directing vet Ken Kwapis is no help here, gamely aiding the screenplay with its sitcom intentions while trying to sneak in some of the sly, improvisational wit he was taught during his years directing "The Office." Hell, the guy even has four actors from the show in the film just in case all else fails. Of course, all else does fail, but the picture is useless in the laugh department, depressingly relying on the cast and their creaky sense of timing to extract every diseased laugh out.

Sold as a Robin Williams comedy, "Wed" actually sedates the manic comedian for a good portion of the film. While hardly the straight man, Williams cools his jets, permitting the rest of the cast to have their fun in the leading roles while he makes Reverend Frank a bizarre object of antagonism; a characteristic that never seems to pay off. As the happy couple, Mandy Moore and John "I've got one reaction" Krasinski are handsome enough, but funny people they sure ain't. Watching Krasinski and Williams trapped in a joke Mexican standoff (a common situation in the film) has got to be some level of torment the Bible neglected to mention.

Running a distressingly long 90 minutes, "Wed" also has the misfortune of being sheared down considerably in the editing room. It seems Sadie has a dashing childhood friend named Carlisle (Eric Christian Olsen, another comedic wet spot) she confides in about everything, driving Ben to seethe with jealousy. The subplot factors intricately into the ending of the film, but we never see it play out. The rest of the feature feels similarly mowed down for breezy mass consumption (the theme of wedded communication also bites the dust), leaving plenty of room for strange marriage scenarios featuring robot baby twins (they poop blue paste) and a moment where Reverend Frank and Sadie discuss sexual preferences. Ick. Where's the old steamrolling Robin Williams when you need him?

"License to Wed" is forgettable, dreary, incomprehensible at important moments, and worst of all, wildly unfunny. It makes marriage look like the biggest mistake of all time, and the multiplex a prison from which there is no escape.

Filmfodder Grade: D-