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License is ill.



I don't mind Robin Williams. In fact, I think he's a fine actor when he is either bearded (Awakenings, Good Will Hunting) or animated (Aladdin, Robots). I even thought parts of his 2002 stand-up comedy special were funny. But why is it that whenever I make that argument, I feel like someone who claims they can't be racist because they have two black friends? What prejudices against Williams' large and largely unpalatable film career am I hiding here? What horrible memories associated with Williams' well-flogged stable of comic characters — gospel preacher, falsetto minstrel, dirty-talking infant, Bay Area homosexual — am I repressing? It's not like Williams is not solely to blame for the silent but deadly screen fart that is License To Wed. But since he's onscreen so much, his performance is a good place to start.

In 2002's creepy character study One Hour Photo, Williams played Sy Parrish, a genteel but deeply disturbed neighborhood presence whose attempts to force himself into the lives of a happy couple end disastrously. In License To Wed, Williams play Reverend Frank, a demented, invasive pastor whose marital-training crash course slowly destroys the relationship between newlyweds-to-be Ben (John Krasinski) and Sadie (Mandy Moore). Although Reverend Frank is supposed to be the linchpin of this wedding comedy, I kept comparing Frank to Sy. Know what? Frank's far more terrifying.

The acting grotesqueries don't stop there. Krasinski (The Office), in his first lead role, is comfortable on the big screen, but he decides midway through the film to abandon its premise and doubt its very existence. As Frank's schemes spiral out of control, Krasinski reverts to standard Jim-isms (his character in The Office) — eye rolls, blank stares, etc. — in a desperate bid for some laughs. Moore, whose wide and constant smile threatens to snap her neck muscles and spring her head from her body, grins and grins and grins in a childlike attempt to wish the whole mess away. Some actors act with their voice, some with their body; here, Moore personifies a bitchy fiancée with her teeth.

People condemn comedies they don't like as "mean-spirited" or "cruel" when all they really mean is "not funny." Scores of great comedies are cruel to their hateful cores, but their cruelty is only invoked when there aren't any laughs around to hide it. And License To Wed is completely laugh-free. There is one near-titter when Krasinski mentions the "creepy little chests" of the android twin robots he and Moore are given as part of their wedding course. The twins' heads look like little, bald Robin Williamses.

License To Wed is indefensible.

License To Wed

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