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Warner Home Video presents
"Sarcasm, wicked stepsister of communication. Point off for that."
DVD ReviewAnyone who has had to undergo pre-marital counseling at a church is likely to have any number of horror stories connected with the experience. License to Wed pretty much takes all of the horror stories possible and crams them into 90 minutes, with time left over for the obligatory meet-cute and related antics. Given its subject matter, that approach is highly appropriate, but that doesn't mean that it inspires much laughter.
The lucky couple in question are Ben Murphy (John Krasinski, of The Office) and Sadie Jones (pop singer Mandy Moore), who decide to tie the knot and seal their happy, romantic relationship. Sadie is determined that she'll get married at St. Augustine's presided over by Reverend Frank (Robin Williams). The catch is that he only has one date open in the next two years, and that's three weeks away. During that period, they need to take and pass Reverend Frank's marriage preparation course, and of course abstain from sex. Unfortunately, the abstinence might be the easy part because Reverend Frank uses technology and underhanded tactics to cram the hostilities that build up over 30 years of marriage into the space of those three weeks.
The picture starts off reasonably well, with a brief but humorous obligatory meet-cute that includes enough slapstick to gratify the male audience without turning into a Three Stooges episode. Matters continue well with the disastrous proposal that happens at the thirtieth wedding anniversary of Sadie's parents (Peter Strauss and Roxanne Hart), but things come to a halt once Williams arrives on the scene. While the casting seems like a natural, it only occasionally works well; one example being a mock exorcism/faith healing Williams initiates while supposedly counseling Ben (and in the process breaking his nose). That sequence (which we learn in the deleted scenes was a late replacement) feels improvised and that's Williams at his best, of course. His lines as scripted aren't all that humorous, and his increasingly aggressive behavior comes off as just plain mean rather than trying to make a point; the pat finale doesn't ring true as a result.
Matters aren't helped any by his creepy assistant, the Choir Boy (Josh Flitter), a ten-year-old "Minister of Tomorrow" who acts as henchman and factotum who is willing to do everything from sycophancy to black bag jobs. Like a vicious homunculus, he casts a pall over the proceedings and leaches out any humor that may be in the last two-thirds of the movie. I'm sure this seemed like a good idea at the writers' table, but it doesn't work very well to further either the romance or the comedy. Flitter does a fine job with the thankless role though; should there be another remake of The Bad Seed he should be at the top of the casting list.
Krasinski essentially plays a mild variation on his Office character, something like a doughy Jimmy Stewart whose stock in trade is deadpan reactions and getting laughs through raised eyebrows. Viewers won't come away impressed by his range, but it's certainly suitable for the part. Moore is pretty unconvincing as the supposed owner of a business and control freak; she just seems far too flighty and lightweight to serve as either of those. She's as cute as the picture demands, but she lacks enough gravitas for a part that's really screaming for a young Meryl Streep to be credible. The funniest moments are reserved for Christine Taylor, who as Sadie's oft-married sister Lindsey exudes bitterness and the straightforward misanthropy that the movie seems to be aiming for. Numerous other recurring cast members from The Office make an appearance, and much of the amusement value in the picture is in spotting them. Particularly good are Brian Baumgartner as another pre-marriage class attendee who has the arguing part of marriage down pat, and an uncredited Angela Kinsey as a jewelry store saleswoman with a superior attitude. Director Ken Kwapis also helmed numerous episodes of the serious, so their presence isn't too big a surprise.
Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C+
Image Transfer Review: Unsurprisingly, the HD transfer of this recent film is nice and clean; there appears to have been some digital noise reduction done to eliminate grain, which limits the fine detail a bit, but at least edge enhancement wasn't slapped on top of that. Shadow detail is surprisingly plugged up, with black rather undifferentiated. Color is vivid throughout, especially in the various nauseating excretions from the robot babies assigned to the couple to prepare them for parenthood. Textures are reasonably good. Artifacting is only nominal and well within acceptable ranges.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: English DD+ 5.1 and True HD tracks are included, though to be honest I found very little difference switching between the two. Directionality is fairly limited, and dialogue is quite center-focused. The modest sound effects are clean and have decent presence. The score by Christophe Beck is about the only thing occupying the surrounds; its light, jazzy feel is a pleasant change of page from the usual movie soundtrack. The vocalising that is frequently featured sounds excellent. It's not impressive, but the audio track does the job without issue.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsThe romance is beaten out long before the end, and most of the comedy with it in this mean-spirited romantic comedy that goes on far too long. It's mostly of interest to fans of The Office.
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