Full disclosure: I recently became engaged.
I should be the target audience for "License to Wed:" hopeful about love, excited about marriage, ready to relieve my worries about a big step ahead with some easy laughs.
I am all those things. But this cheap-laughs Robin Williams vehicle left me cold anyway.
The heroes, Ben and Sadie, are impetuous young things who have rushed into marriage and absolutely must, per the adorable Sadie's request, be married in Reverend Frank's (Williams') church. To get the go-ahead, they have to complete Reverend Frank's hellacious marriage preparation course, all while planning a wedding.
In three weeks.
Cue my nightmares.
Williams, as the unhinged Reverend Frank, is neither as manically funny as in his early comedies nor as saccharine (thank God) as in his misguided "movies with a message" phase. He mostly seems bored with his flat, inexplicable character.
Who can blame him? Reverend Frank doesn't have much to work with. Ben and Sadie (an underused John Krasinski and obnoxiously perky Mandy Moore) don't even have as much chemistry as the good Reverend and his creepy 10-year-old sidekick, whose presence is never fully explained.
Reverend Frank claims a 100 percent success rate for the marriages of those who pass his course, but it's hard to understand how his exercises -- all undertaken to strengthen the couples' bonds, of course -- build lasting relationships.
Why make men belly-dance in public or carry their ladies over imaginary thresholds? What's so salubrious about ordering a couple to abstain from sex for three weeks and enforcing the edict by bugging their apartment?
"License to Wed" spends so much time convincing us Sadie and Ben are wrong for each other that it's hard to believe any eleventh-hour revelations of commitment. It seems safer to take bets on how long it will be before the divorce than on how many adorable kids they'll produce.
Despite the uneven script, Krasinski pulls off some of the best scenes in the film. When he and director Ken Kwapis, both veterans of television's wryly funny "The Office," get the screen to themselves without the interference of Williams' halfhearted wisecracking or Moore's precious eyelash-batting, good things happen.
The hands-down funniest encounter occurs in a jewelry store, with a brief appearance by "The Office's" Angela Kinsey. Krasinski finally finds the comic rhythm missing from the rest of the movie, though it's lamentably brief. Watch, too, for welcome cameos by other familiar "Office" faces.
If only Sadie were a match for Ben's understated wit. I wish someone would give Moore permission to unleash the diabolical streak she exhibited in "Saved!" It's not entirely her fault -- all she's called upon to do is smile beguilingly and giggle occasionally.
It's that mismatch between Ben and Sadie that ultimately keeps us from caring about their romance. There's no urgency or depth between them, nothing to show why they're willing to undergo Reverend Frank's tortures to wind up shackled to each other.
Even for someone who's predisposed to be hopeful about love and marriage, the take-away message is oddly dark.
"For a lot of people, marriage is like sticking your tongue on a frozen flagpole," Reverend Frank opines, and even the sticky-sweet ending can't quite prove otherwise.
"License to Wed"
Two stars (out of four)
Robin Williams, John Krasinski and Mandy Moore star in Ken Kwapis' romantic comedy about a couple who must endure a reverend's marriage preparation course in order to wed in his church. Rated PG-13.