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License to Wed (2007)

Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 10/30/2007

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/30/2007

"Comedy" is a very broad genre which can be broken down into smaller sub-sections. For years, we've had dark or black comedies. These are films in which very serious subject matter is played with a tongue-in-cheek tone, resulting in a film which throws the viewer off-balance. Movies such as Fargo, Fight Club, and The War of the Roses certainly fit this description. The success of Meet the Parents made a similar style of comedy suddenly become popular. I call it "uncomfortable comedy" -- this occurs when an otherwise likable character keeps doing the wrong thing, resulting in uncomfortable laughter from the viewer. The latest example of this is License to Wed.

License to Wed opens by following the relationship of Ben (John Krasinski) and Sadie (Mandy Moore). The two meet at Starbucks (?!), fall in love, and move in together. Six months later, Ben asks Sadie to marry him. She accepts, on one condition -- they must be married in her home-church by long-time family friend, Reverend Frank (Robin Williams). Ben agrees and the two meet Reverend Frank. Ben is quickly intimidated by the fast-talking clergyman and is then confused when Frank insists that the two go through his marriage preparation course. Frank says that he does this in order to confirm that couples are compatible. The only problem is that Frank's only opening is three weeks away. Ben and Sadie agree on this, and they suddenly find themselves being grilled, tested, and spied upon by Reverend Frank. The more Frank tests them, the more foolish Ben looks. Can the relationship of these young lovers survive Reverend Frank's scrutiny?

For years, the makers of horror films have understood the power of uncomfortable or nervous laughter. It allows the audience to relieve some tension between scares. However, when a comedy wants to rely on this form of humor, it is forced to walk a very fine line. If it's too soft, it's just another comedy, or in the case of License to Wed, it would be just another romantic comedy. But, if it pushes too hard, the movie can seem mean-spirited and most audience members will find no humor in it.

License to Wed attempts to straddle this line, and fails and succeeds at nearly even rates. The films starts off innocently enough, and there's actually a clever moment during the proposal scene which plays off of the audience's experience with movies of this sort. However, once Ben meets Reverend Frank, License to Wed clearly moves down that uncomfortable path. The more Ben tries to prove his love to Sadie, the worse that he looks to everyone around them, and Reverend Frank simply seems to be enjoying the show. And the worse that Ben looks, the more that the audience should sympathize with him. But, the movie goes too far at times, and we aren't sure how to feel. Here's an example: Ben and Sadie are given animatronic babies to care for, as a test of their parenting skills. For some reason (which is never really made clear), Ben is left in charge of them. The first time that he messes up with the babies, I must admit, I laughed out loud. But then, the scenes of this ilk just kept going and going, until they weren't funny anymore and Ben came across as a moron. While watching the movie, I keep thinking of Meet the Parents. The main difference is that in that film, Ben Stiller's character wants to fit in, but he's always himself. in License to Wed, the Ben character never really forms, so he never gets the chance to fight back (until the end, of course).

The movie must also contend with Robin Williams. Let's face it, Williams is an incredibly funny person and he can easily be the center of any comedy. Williams has also made a name for himself playing dramatic characters. Much like the movie, he plays somewhere in the middle here. He definitely has some funny lines, and one gets the feeling that the entire "Ten Commandments/Family Feud" segment was ad-libbed, but he's also very restrained here. There are some moments where the Robin Williams that we know shines through, but for the most part, Reverend Frank is simply an energetic, cherubic man of the cloth. In other words, most of this performance could have been turned in by any actor.

This should illustrate my overall feelings about License to Wed. When I finish watching a movie, I always go back and watch a few key scenes in order to double-check the audio and video quality. When I did this for License to Wed, I found that there was no scene that I wanted to see again. The movie is simply that bland. Moore and Krasinski are likable enough, and there's definitely chemistry between them. But, I couldn't help but feel that Robin Williams was wasted in his role. If you want License to Wed, make sure that you have a license to rent.

License to Wed gets down on one knee for DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The DVD contains both the widescreen and full-frame versions of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is clear, as it shows no grain or defects from the source material. However, the sharpness of the image varies throughout the film. Some shots look fine, but others are somewhat soft and lack in detail. There is also some slight artifacting at times. The colors look fine and the framing appears to be accurate. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a dialogue-driven comedy, there's not a going on here outside of some stereo effects. Musical cues emit from the rear speakers at times and there are a few minor subwoofer effects, but otherwise, the audio comes from the front and center channels. Granted, the quality is fine, but you won't be demoing your system with this.

The DVD contains only two extras. There are 5 ADDITIONAL SCENES which run about 12 minutes and can be viewed with optional commentary by director Ken Kwapis. Several of these are quite long. One shows an alternate scene of the first solo meeting between Ben and Frank. The longest scene shows the difference between Ben's bachelor party and Sadie's bachelorette party. The other extra is called "Ask Choir Boy". These are short segments featuring actor Josh Flitter giving relationship advice.

License to Wed has also come to Blu-ray Disc. The disc features a 1080p VC-1 transfer and the film is letterboxed at 2.40:1. When compared to the DVD, the clarity on the Blu-ray is amazing. The image is very solid, showing no grain and none of the softness seen on the DVD. The colors really pop here, especially bright pinks and greens. The depth of the image is very satisfying, and the oceanfront scenes, with the clear skies, show no distortion or grain whatsoever. The image also shows no blurring or video noise. The amount of detail in the image is impressive. The Blu-ray offers a Linear PCM 5.1 audio track, which runs at 4.6 Mbps. As with the DVD, there is no groundbreaking (or wall-shaking) sound here, but the dialogue and sound effects sound fine. There is a notable amount of detail in the stereo effects when compared to the DVD, and one can pick out more distinct and varied background noises. The extras on the Blu-ray are the same as those on the DVD. If possible, catch License to Wed on Blu-ray, as the differences (and the picture) are quite clear.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long