I could write a review of License to Wed...or I could just shake my head in quiet disappointment. Y'know, it gets the point across, and I don't have to type quite so much.
So, on one end of the bended knee, there's Mandy Moore. She stars as Sadie, a twentysomething florist who's cute as a button! Cute as a bug in a rug. Whatever your cliched benchmark for adorable-ness is, that's Sadie. The guy forking over a couple months' salary for her engagement ring is Ben. It's John Krasinski's first leading role after his breakout turn on The Office, but this is an awfully smooth transition since he's pretty much warming over Jim Halpert's schtick here.
You know how Jim continually mugs to the camera on The Office with that bug-eyed, bemused-slash-horrified smirk? Yup, John Krasinski gets to whip out those same tics again in License to Wed because Reverend Frank (Robin Williams) is nuts!!!!!!!!!! See, Sadie has her heart set on getting married in the quaint little church her grandfather kinda-sorta-not-really built, but the only opening in the next couple of years is three short weeks away. She and Ben also have to rush their way through the nightmarish couples course that Reverend Frank makes all of his spouses-to-be complete. Strap yourself in, viewers at home, 'cause Reverend Frank's course is a whirling dervish of madcap hilarity! Y'see, Ben has to go the whole three weeks without getting laid. How's he gonna do that? Oh, oh, and Frank had his pint-sized sidekick Choir Boy (Josh Flitter) bug their apartment so they can listen in and make sure things aren't getting too hot-'n-heavy! The good reverend also bombards Ben and Sadie with deeply intimate questions about their sex lives because that's...an important part of a successful marriage...?
Whoa, drop that sucker into neutral for a sec. That's kind of voyeuristic and disturbing, really, and you'll be thrilled to hear that everything -- everything -- about License to Wed is every bit as aggressively unfunny. The screenplay, which inexplicably has four names attached to it, reads like someone trotted over to Stuckey's and bought a "Make Your Own Romantic Comedy!" magic pen set. You've got your parade of lame double entendres, a sassy black best friend (who may or may not have said "oh, hell no"; I wasn't keeping track)... There's a bit where Ben and Rev. Frank bond by playing catch, and you're kinda just staring at your watch, waiting for Frank to peg Ben in the head, and License to Wed is much too formulaic and predictable to disappoint. Ben and Sadie have to take care of a pair of robot babies to prove their worth as prospective parents, and if you had your fingers crossed and ate all of your vegetables and prayed really, really hard that there'd be a scene with Ben taking off one of the tykes' diapers only to have a stream of pee pelt him in the face, you're in luck.
Look, there's not another genre in the history of cinema that lends itself to paint-by-numbers filmmaking quite the same way as the romantic comedy. There are really only...oh, let's say four romantic comedies, and year after year, we're bombarded by a couple dozen lightweight variations of 'em. Just reading through those couple of paragraphs above, you already know how this thing goes: Ben and Sadie start the movie off all lovey-dovey, Reverend Frank's nightmarish course splits them apart, with Ben thinking the guy's off his rocker while Sadie dotes over how sweet and thoughtful he is, there's a nasty break-up, and they improbably get back together in the last few minutes just in time for some sappy speech by Rev. Frank. In between, you've got your mouth-breather ravenous for potato skins (you see, fat people like to eat appetizers), Sadie cheerfully agreeing to drive down the busy streets of suburban Chicago blindfolded because that's what the script tells her to do, an agonizingly long scene about a wedding ring mistakenly inscribed "Never to Fart", a robot baby squirting out soft-serv blue poop, stupid plot points like Ben and Sassy Black Best Friend trying to dredge up dirt from Rev. Frank's past even though the wedding's just a couple of days away, after which point he'll never have to have anything to do with the bastard again... Whatever.
License to Wed feels like a couple of writers decided, "Hey! Let's make a romantic comedy", raided Blockbuster and devoured CBS' tepid Monday night comedy lineup, and wound up with this lazy, unimaginative, forgettable, soul-crushingly unfunny feature-length sitcom. Skip It.
Video: I've read some awfully gushing write-ups of License to Wed's 2.39:1, VC-1 encoded video, but it seemed to hover somewhere in the neighborhood of average to my eyes. Yeah, it's bright and colorful, and like pretty much anything ducking straight out of theaters, the high-def visuals aren't marred by any speckling or visible wear. License to Wed is reasonably sharp, but crispness and clarity both looked fairly middling, with contrast striking me as slightly muddy. The image just doesn't have that tactile, three-dimensional pop I usually expect from these next-gen formats. It's okay -- more or less what I'd expect from a garden variety, modestly budgeted romantic comedy -- but something to show off your $3,000 set...? Not so much.
The only difference between the two high-def releases is that the HD DVD is being issued as a combo disc, with both 4x3 and scope standard definition presentations of the movie on the flipside of the disc.
Audio: Both the HD DVD and Blu-ray discs get 5.1 lossless audio -- PCM on Blu-ray, Dolby TrueHD on HD DVD -- not that License to Wed is exactly going to push some overpriced home theater rig past the breaking point or anything. It's a standard issue comedy mix, so you know the drill: dialogue cleanly and clearly reproduced front-'n-center, light ambiance and reinforced music in the surrounds, a few scattered pans across the front channels, and a subwoofer that sits around listlessly twiddling its low-frequency thumbs. There are a few moments where the mix gets a little more spry, shoes squeaking their way across the rears during a basketball game that Ben's coaching and lapping waves as the climax inches near, but that sort of ambiance doesn't rank much higher than average. The audio's technically fine for what it is, sure, but it's still kinda bland.
Also included are subtitles and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in English, Spanish, and Quebecois-French.
Extras: Well, at least I didn't have to waste much time tearing through the extras. Twelve minutes of deleted scenes tack on an animated prologue and a quick tag before the end credits, a one-on-one round of hoops between Ben and Rev. Frank that was snipped out of the movie in favor of a game of catch, and a subplot with Ben storming away from his anemic bachelor party at the Sizzler over to Sadie's throwdown at metro-Carlisle's posh pad. So, yeah, it's stuff that wasn't good enough to make it into a pretty lousy movie, so that's my review right there. Director Ken Kwapis chimes in with an audio commentary for these five scenes -- though not for the movie proper, for whatever reason -- explaining why they were snipped out and briefly touching on things like the difficulty he had casting Choir Boy.
Oh, and on that note, the only other extra is "Ask Choir Boy", a call-in radio spoof where you pick an extension on a phone, and Choir Boy chimes in with hee-larious marriage advice. I'm still shaking my head. No, really, I am.
All of the disc's extras are presented in standard definition.
Conclusion: No. Just...no. Skip It.
The images scattered around this review are promotional stills and aren't meant to represent the way the movie looks in high definition.