Sadie and Ben are in love, and although Ben suggests getting married in the Caribbean, Sadie has her heart set on a wedding at the family church, St. Augustine's. Ben says sure, and they meet with the pastor, Rev. Frank. The only date open for two years is three weeks away, and Frank insists the kids go through his marriage prep course. They're to write their own vows; he also demands chastity, bugs their apartment, initiates arguments, has them care for robot twins, creates friction between Ben and her family, and raises doubts in Sadie. Desperate, Ben looks for dirt on Frank. Can he undermine Frank's authority and keep Sadie's heart? Written by
I'm going to say something that no one in License to Wed has the guts (or the brains) to say - Reverend Frank belongs behind bars. Frank is supposed to be a goofy and likable guy who grows on us despite his unorthodox methods toward couples coaching. Unfortunately, the movie goes to such extremes that we are not so much charmed by Frank, rather we are terrified by him. The man is a menace, and the fact that nobody seems to realize it except for one character makes everyone in this movie come across as completely oblivious.
Young lovers Ben Murphy (John Krasinski) and Sadie Jones (Mandy Moore) have just made plans to take their relationship to the next level and get married. It's always been Sadie's dream to be married at the family church with Reverend Frank (Robin Williams) doing the ceremony. Before they can get married, however, Frank forces the young lovers into a bizarre program where they will have to pass a series of tests to see if they are right for each other. Frank, along with his young student (Josh Flitter), sets up a series of challenges and simulations that are supposed to represent the difficulties that the couple will face in the future together. While it sounds reasonable enough in theory, the Reverend goes so far as to invading their private lives, even bugging Ben and Sadie's apartment with concealed recording equipment, letting him hear everything that happens when he's not around. Ben's patience with Frank's extreme program starts to wear thin, and the young couple start to contemplate if things are as compatible between them as they initially thought.
There's nothing really wrong with License to Wed whenever Reverend Frank is not on the screen. During those times, it's a perfectly ordinary romantic comedy that plays by the rules. Unfortunately, Frank is a major character, and the movie devotes too much time to him. He's an evil, manipulative man, and we're supposed to laugh at him, because he's played by Robin Williams, and he's constantly shooting off zippy one-liners. If this character had been played straight, I have no doubt believing his Reverend Frank would be right up there with his "deranged" performances in Insomnia and One Hour Photo. At one point, he has a 10-year-old kid break into the couple's apartment while they're away at a session, and conceal a wire tap in their home. The character of Frank comes across as someone who enjoys tormenting young couples who just want to get married, and is not below employing children to do his dirty work so that he remains off the hook. If this sounds like a jovial, comical character to you, I highly suggest counseling.
My question is why does nobody else in this movie but Ben realize just how evil this guy is? And when Ben discovers the wire tap, why doesn't he make a bigger deal about it? More importantly, why doesn't Sadie? When Ben finally does tell her about the hidden recording equipment, Sadie doesn't even react to this revelation, nor does she even act offended. Are we to believe this woman doesn't even care that this man has been violating their privacy? If I seem to be putting too much stock in one character, I can't help it. He is what makes this entire movie go wrong. The character hangs over the movie like a black shadow, and causes everyone to become incredibly stupid, because no one can admit to themselves that this man is wrong. Even Ben, who distrusts him from the moment he lays eyes on Frank, winds up liking the guy before the movie's over.
It's hard to get behind a cast when they're forced to play clueless morons for the sake of the plot. Mandy Moore, once again finds herself playing a woman who refuses to even look at the obvious until the screenplay feels its convenient for her to do so. After Because I Said So and now this, I'm starting to wonder if she has some kind of bizarre fascination with women who make bad decisions for no reason other than to move the plot along. John Krasinski is passable, but not much more than that. He seems to kind of be playing a Ben Stiller-type character, only without Stiller's enthusiasm. The rest of the cast spend most of the time in the background, not contributing much of anything. That's because Reverend Frank keeps on hijacking the movie at every conceivable opportunity. It gets to the point we start wondering if we're watching a movie, or if we're watching one of Williams' lesser improv performances.
License to Wed is a movie that goes so extremely off course, and it's all because of one man. If he had just been written a different way, the film could have been salvaged. As it is, he drags the entire movie down with him. It's amazing how the wrong lead character can affect everyone and everything around them. When the movie came to its predetermined happy ending, I didn't feel joy. I felt sorry for this couple that this guy was still a part of their lives, and imagined what hell awaited them in the future. I'm sure we'll hear all about it if we're unfortunate enough to get a sequel.
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