'License' Takes Things Too Slow

Since Shakespeare's time, there's been a hard and fast rule for romantic comedies. You've got to have a wedding.

License to Wed tests that truism, and how. This halting, sometimes sweet, sometimes silly, always insistent farce has a little romance, a little wedding wisdom, the odd nice moment and the nice odd moment, and Robin Williams, running at half speed.

That was enough to make RV a hit, and License could turn the same trick. But it's a pity the movie Williams put about half his A-game into is a stumbling stiff much of the time he's not around.

Williams riffs his way around a script that has him playing a control-freak preacher who puts a betrothed couple through the ringer before he'll preside over their nuptials at his gorgeous, pseudo-traditional/pseudo-hip church.

Mandy Moore and John Krasinski (of The Office) are the ready-to-weds. Sadie is prepping her dream wedding in the church her wealthy Chicago family helped build. Ben, like most grooms, is just along for the ride.

Enter Rev. Frank. He has a pushy, pint-sized and smart-mouthed "Ministers of Tomorrow" protege (Josh Flitter of Nancy Drew) and a crash course in married life that Sadie and Ben have three weeks to pass.

Rev. Frank baits Ben. He sets up word association/role reversal games sure to get a rise out of the couple, the in-laws and everybody else. He spies on them. He makes them agree to "no more sex" until the honeymoon.

And Ben slowly melts down as they tote mewling/puking robot infants to Macy's and picking out which nutty cheese to serve at the reception.

There's a promising premise, here -- compress a lifetime of marital obstacles into few weeks. The sentiment is kind of sappy sweet. But the situations are frankly dull when Rev. Frank isn't there, and often dull when he is. Krasinski is getting a premature "Next big thing" star push that he simply doesn't have the presence to pull off. He is all but a non-entity here. Mandy Moore is properly perky and moony and likable, but while they're believable as a couple, there isn't much comic heat to their disagreements.

Director Ken Kwapis (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) tosses in random laughs, here and there (Jamaican bus passengers, a visit to a maternity ward with the obligatory Wanda Sykes cameo). But he's hard pressed to take us anywhere the script-by-committee story hasn't lifted from a dozen other movies. Unless you count the robot baby diaper change.

Williams, as has been reported elsewhere, has his long, dark rehab of the soul sometime after finishing this movie, which explains the Robo-on-slo-mo speed of his familiar patter. He recycles a lot of his TV preacher riffs ("Heal. Demons be GONE!") for Rev. Frank and despite off color cracks ("Let's get the flock outta here." ) never lets the man of the cloth have the edge the movie demands.

The title and the genre promises us a wedding, as Shakespeare decreed. And there's a harmlessness to the humor that some will find comforting. But somewhere along the way, somebody should have pulled this License, at least until the writers found funnier stuff for everybody to do.

Get showtimes and movie details for "License to Wed."