To remind viewers of its gilded past, Warner Bros. Studios has taken to introducing all its movies to the nostalgic strains of Casablanca's "As Time Goes By," including its newest romantic comedy, License to Wed. I may be alone in this sentiment, but jumping from memories of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman to a shot of Robin Williams grinning in a clerical collar struck me as particularly deflating.
The movie follows two attractive twentysomethings, Ben (John Krasinski) and Sadie (Mandy Moore), who meet, fall in love and get engaged during the film's breezy, amusing opening montage. All's well until Sadie decides they need to take a marriage-preparation course taught by her priest, the Reverend Frank (Williams). Apparently, love isn't enough to make a marriage work these days. Now you need three weeks of connubial advice from a celibate with an affinity for Popeye impressions.
It goes without saying that this will be no everyday marriage class, not with a hyperactive Williams setting the curriculum. Using surveillance microphones, forced celibacy and elaborate trust exercises, he sets about ruining a perfectly good relationship in the name of saving it, which seems a misguided, not to mention mean-spirited, premise for a story. Luckily the movie focuses on Krasinski, who makes the most out of a thankless role and a by-the-numbers script.
Krasinski manages to give Ben some dignity in his feeble struggle with the forces arrayed against him (his in-laws, the reverend, involuntary chastity) by using the same weapon he's mastered as the ineffectual and lovelorn Jim on NBC's "The Office": the ironic comic aside. But here the asides seem less like an ironic comment and more like a great howl of desperation let loose in a soundproof room. Nobody's listening. Nobody cares.