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License to Wed

Jilted at the Altar

License to Wed is the kind of film that has all the potential in the world to be enormously funny. Youíve got Robin Williams playing a manic, wacky reverend who specializes in a "marriage preparation course". You have an attractive, funny, soon-to-be wed couple in Mandy Moore as Sadie and John Krasinski as Ben. You even have a director who has helmed several hysterical episodes of NBCís sitcom hit, "The Office". The end result is something far from hysterical.

It all starts out promisingly enough with an amusing series of shots illustrating some of the most endearing (and awkward) moments of any courtship. In short order, Ben finds himself awkwardly proposing to Sadie at the anniversary party of Sadieís parents. This awkwardness is to be a continued theme throughout License to Wed.

Ben seemingly always finds himself in an awkward/uncomfortable position. This kind of perpetual awkwardness was tailor made for Krasinski who is profoundly talented at expressing a world of discomfort and befuddlement with a single glance. Clearly, Krasinski honed this ability via his stint on "The Office".

You canít help but empathize with Ben as he finds himself neck deep in Reverend Frankís bizarre marriage preparation course replete with simulating arguments, talking about sexual needs, carrying around scary animatronic babies, and much more. Krasinskiís performance almost makes one overlook the fact that Ben is a poorly developed character. Itís unclear what he does professionally, what makes him tick, and why he loves Sadie. Benís actually kind of a boring guy at the end of the day.

Sadieís no real prize either. Granted, Mandy Moore is strikingly attractive and nice, but who is she? What is it that makes her tick? None of this is clear. So, when Sadie and Ben find themselves struggling to pass the "marriage certification course", itís tough to really care that much. While they make a nice couple, it doesnít necessarily feel like the world is going to end if they donít make it.

The real "attraction" of License to Wed is presumably yet another manic performance by Robin Williams as the odd Reverend Frank. Williams has a few moments that elicit genuine laughter, but more often than not Williamsís shtick is simply annoying and implausible.

Once again, we donít really know "why" Frank feels compelled to put young, nice, soon to be wed couples through the wringer. Frank indicates itís because he truly cares, but this is hard to reconcile with him bugging a coupleís room or blindfolding Sadie when sheís at the wheel of a car so that Ben can direct her verbally through traffic. Reverend Frankís nonsense is too much of a stretch most of the time to be consistently funny.

Itís unfortunate that with his comedic background from "The Office", director Ken Kwapis couldnít manage to get a few more genuine laughs out of License to Wed. Part of what works in comedies like The 40 Year Old Virgin is that the characters are three dimensional and director Judd Apatow manages to make the audience care about them. Kwapis could learn something from Apatowís comedy classic. If youíre looking for comedy in the theaters, stick to Knocked Up for the time being.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars