Thursday, August 16, 2007

Review - License to Wed

There's no doubt that License to Wed is a miserable failure for everyone involved, but it does count as an achievement of sorts for Robin Williams. Prior to this astonishingly inept comedy, Patch Adams was generally seen as the film in which Williams gave his most unfunny and charmless performance to date, but in Licence to Wed's Reverend Frank we may have a new winner. Reverend Frank is the near-psychotic priest to intervenes when young lovebirds Ben and Sadie (John Krasinski and Mandy Moore) decide to tie the knot. Sadie has always dreamed of holding her wedding in the same church her parents married in thirty years before, and as luck would have it a late cancellation has opened a window in Frank's schedule. But before they can go ahead with the ceremony, Ben and Sadie will have to pass the reverend's unique marriage crash-course; a course which threatens to end their marriage before it has even begun.

The tasks Frank lays out for Ben and Sadie include the following: making them take care of two animatronic babies, who come complete with bodily functions; encouraging Ben to insult Sadie's whole ghastly family during a word-association exercise; and forcing Sadie to drive across town blindfolded (seriously). He prods the happy couple into an argument at every opportunity, and bugs their apartment to ensure the 'no sex' rule is being adhered to. All in all, he's the most obnoxious character you could ever wish to avoid, but the makers of
License to Wed seem convinced that we'll find his wacky antics hilarious. We're encouraged to view Reverend Frank as an ultimately well-meaning character, who is only trying to help Ben and Sadie understand the pressures of a marriage; but as personified by the aggressively manic Williams he simply comes across as a sadist and a pervert, whose determination to drive a wedge between this couple is frankly disturbing.

No wonder John Krasinski looks so miserable, his character seems to be the only person in the whole film who can see Frank for the twisted individual he is, or perhaps the actor's despair comes from the realisation that he has left a well-written sitcom for a film which is barely written at all. He seems out of his depth in the lead here, uncomfortable with the pratfalls and struggling to ignite any sort of chemistry with Mandy Moore. His female co-star is usually a likeable presence, I've enjoyed her performances in films like American Dreamz and
Saved!, but her character's complete obliviousness to her fiancé's misgivings leaves Moore with nothing to work with; she just smiles and frowns as the plot dictates.

In any case, both actors are often reduced to mere props as Williams dredges up the same old tired, irritating shtick which just isn't funny any more. I doubt Williams even finds this stuff remotely amusing these days. His silly voices and wild gestures feel so rote by this stage, and Williams has the deadening look in his eyes of a man who is going through the motions simply because it's what's expected of him. He can be a fine actor, but when was the last time he was in a really funny film? The only one which comes to mind is Mike Nichols'
The Birdcage, when a surprisingly restrained Williams allowed Nathan Lane to take on the more extravagant role, but that was over ten years ago, and the subsequent decade has seen his comedic stock falling like a stone. With License to Wed it hits rock bottom.

License to Wed has been directed by Ken Kwapis, who worked with Krasinski on The Office (many of that show's cast appear in small roles here), but you'd be hard-pressed to find any sense of direction in this witless film as it careens recklessly from one lame set-piece to another. Everything about this picture is inept; it looks cheap and ugly, it's horribly edited, and there isn't a single laugh in the film's torturous 90 minute running time.

But the most amazing thing about
License to Wed is the revelation, in the closing credits, that no less than five writers have claimed credit for this film's story and screenplay. Look further down the credits and you'll see that the amount of producers listed runs into the double figures; and as I saw these names passing before my eyes I realised that nobody involved in this production seems to give a damn about the quality of the product they're serving up for us filmgoers. It's a hugely depressing thought, showing complete disdain for the public, and yet License to Wed managed to pull in over $40 million at the American box-office despite being one of the year's worst reviewed movies. Maybe we get the romantic comedies we deserve, but if none of the filmmakers care about the shit they're shovelling into the multiplexes, then why should we?