Unleashing Robin Williams in the least flattering possible manner, “License to Wed” squanders the modest chemistry between its appealing central couple — Mandy Moore and “The Office’s” John Krasinski — uniting its elements in an astonishingly flat romantic comedy, filled with perplexing choices. Tossed into the summer season, pic is at best a relatively harmless way to enjoy air conditioning for those who admire Williams’ ability to riff, even at his most irritating; otherwise, Warner Bros. should see its theatrical stay quickly annulled.
Sadie (Moore) and Ben (Krasinski) meet cute at Starbucks, court and get engaged, all in the first 10 minutes. Giddily happy, they immediately consent when her blue-blood family insists the ceremony be performed by Rev. Frank (Williams), who forces the pair to fulfill an expedited “marriage preparation course” before marrying.
What transpires after that, alas, is a series of unfunny scenes that, as directed by Ken Kwapis (“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”), tend to drag on interminably. Inexplicably flanked at all times by an equally annoying young boy (Josh Flitter) who he’s mentoring, Rev. Frank seemingly does everything he can to torpedo Sadie and Ben’s relationship — demanding they forgo sex, insisting (in perhaps the most inane sequence) they care for life-like robot babies and planting a bug in their apartment.
In some respects, the creepy-clergyman concept has the trappings of a horror movie, and strictly from a comedic perspective, this pretty much is. Although Kwapis has directed episodes of “The Office,” and the movie does feature co-stars Mindy Kaling, Angela Kinsey and Brian Baumgartner in what amount to moral-support cameos for Krasinski’s leading-man role, none of that program’s subtle wit is apparent here. A good rule of thumb: When asking people to go out and see a truly dumb movie, it’s best not to remind them there’s a much funnier TV show they can watch at home for free.
The real disconnect ultimately lies in Rev. Frank, whom Williams invests with manic energy and lots of silly puns (as in “Let’s get the flock out of here”) without any sense of menace or motivation. Against that excess, Moore and Krasinski can do little more than look winsomely adorable and boyishly befuddled, respectively.
Tech credits and sets reflect the pic’s modest aspirations, and the closing credits run an assortment of giggle-filled outtakes, suggesting a production that was apparently more fun to make than to watch. As the movie repeatedly stresses, a successful marriage is hard work, as is the serious business of producing a solid comedy. On that score, “License to Wed” does little more than make you yearn for another day at “The Office.”