A new 'relationship comedy' co-stars Mandy Moore and John Krasinski as a young couple anxious to get married; but before they can march down the aisle they have to go through the intensive marriage preparation course devised by their preacher, played by irrepressible Robin Williams. Alan Silverman has a look at License To Wed.
Reverend Frank has seen too many of the couples that he joined in matrimony break apart in bitter divorce. So when a longtime member of his congregation, Sadie, (literally) falls for Ben, Reverend Frank says he will be happy to officiate as they take their vows ...but first he has to be sure they take those vows seriously.
With less time than usual before the nuptials, Reverend Frank gives the young lovers a crash course ranging from how to settle an argument to what being a parent will be like (thanks to a pair of unusually grotesque robotic babies). Robin Williams knows from personal experience that the light-hearted film taps into some serious issues ...even though, in the world of a romantic film, it has to end with 'happily ever after:'
"I think you hope for that, just like everyone when they get married is hoping that everything works out," Williams says. "For those of us that have done the program twice - 'the survivors,' as we say - I think you want it to work out. You want to find out what is it about this? What is it they need to know that might help them, as Frank says, 'increase the survival rate.' "
Along the way Williams has plenty of fun with the situation, but he says wearing the cleric's collar kept him from going too racy with some of his trademark comic riffs.
"You have to hold back a little bit. You have to be funny, but you also have to realize that there are bounds," says Williams. " Even though I have seen priests and reverends be very 'blue' on occasions - they can talk as blue as anybody if it serves a purpose - he has a certain level of decorum. The idea of spiritual counseling on marriage is a long program and he can be funny with that and honest with them and playful and yet provocative.
John Krasinski, a co-star on the American version of the popular TV comedy The Office, plays prospective groom Ben and he says playing opposite Williams was both a dream and a challenge.
"He does what no one else can do. It's not like you can even learn from him," Krasinski says. "The things I learned from him were how to be a professional, being enthusiastic and coming in every day to work. As far as being quick-witted and snappy like him, there's only one person who can do it, so you can't really say 'I'm going to steal that joke' because you'll never deliver it like him."
"I feel lucky that had John to sort of defuse some of that energy," adds Mandy Moore. " The two of them are both comedians so they joked around a lot. I just got to be the girl that sat in the corner and applauded and giggled."
Moore is Sadie and, while the character has her share of pratfalls, Moore says she knew better than to compete with Williams and Krasinski for laughs.
"I just decided early on to take a back seat. I'll let them take care of all the jokes," says Moore. " It is not really my part in the film, anyway; but you can not help but laugh - maybe even at the most inappropriate times - with those two. I was always the first one to break character while we were filming scenes because Robin will go off on a tangent about something, completely improvisational and I just would lose it."
Moore also says she does not mind at all that audiences will expect - even demand - that her Sadie and Krasinski's Ben wind up together by the closing credits.
"I am the quintessential girl who loves relationship comedies and romantic comedies," Moore says. "I appreciate knowing the outcome and expecting that the characters find each other and work out their differences. Maybe it is not the most realistic, but that's what you go to the movies to do ...to sort of lose yourself in the fantasy of it."
And hilarity ensues. License To Wed also features Christine Taylor as Sadie's unhappily divorced sister. The director is Ken Kwapis and, while the story is set in Chicago, most of it was shot in locations from British Columbia in Canada to Southern California to the luxurious (and very photogenic) resort beaches of Jamaica.