License to Wed
With the national divorce rate hovering around the 50% mark, it seems anyone intent on marrying would want to improve the odds for success. But taking a marriage preparation class from Reverend Frank (Robin Williams) may be the last thing a couple should do.
As the religious leader of St. Augustine's church, Frank's prenuptial course is as unconventional as his approach to teaching the Ten Commandments. During the ongoing seminars, he effectively puts an engaged couple through a matrimonial wringer. But, Sadie Jones (Mandy Moore) has always dreamt of a traditional wedding in the grand old cathedral. And although she hasn't been to church in a decade, she is willing to go through the program in order to walk down the hallowed aisle. On the other hand, her fianc, Ben (John Krasinski), would prefer a tropical ceremony, yet he's willing to go along with Sadie's wishes.
However, neither one of them anticipates the kind of radical exercises the Reverend has in his curriculum. Setting up a strict set of rules, Frank drags Sadie and Ben through a depressing marriage enrichment evening at a local bar, traipses them through the labor and delivery corridor of the hospital and then hands over two maniacal, mechanical "babies" for the couple to "parent." Moreover, to ensure the cohabitating duo gives up intimacy and keeps their relationship purely platonic until after the wedding, the Reverend has his understudy (Josh Flitter) secretly plant a microphone in the pair's bedroom.
But rather than bringing the young adults closer to taking their vows, this cleric triggers all kinds of contention between the bride and groom as well as with the future in-laws. Goading them on from one argument to the next, he's seems intent on promoting disharmony rather than real communication.
While audiences are supposed to believe the father knows best, it is hard to have faith in an impious religious leader who continually spews out sexual innuendo and resorts to illegal and unethical activities during the course of his counseling. As well, viewers have to put up with a cheeky depiction of a religious healing prayer, repeated irreverent profanities and other vulgarities including a bleeped sexual expletive.
Positive portrayals of marriage are also non-existent. Ben's best man (DeRay Davis), who is married with children, suffers from wanderlust when it comes to other women. Sadie's divorced sister (Christine Taylor) and even her parents (Peter Strauss, Roxanne Hart) are also hardly worthy role models, making it hard to understand why Ben and Sadie would continue with the Reverend's degrading and antagonizing lessons.
Yet like most romantic comedies, License to Wed feels compelled to conjure up a happy ending--no matter how contrived it feels after enduring Reverend Frank's pop culture brand of spiritual guidance. Rather than promoting wedded bliss, this film's farcical approach to marriage prep makes a mockery of matrimony.