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MOVIE REVIEW

'License' should be revoked

Wedding tale tests viewers' patience, not couple's commitment

"License to Wed " is the sort of comedy that ends with a blooper reel. It's there just to assure you that no matter how torturous it was for you to watch, this was a pretty fun movie to make. I've always found that silly -- very few good comedies end that way. It's like giving someone a house tour that ends in a storage locker: Here's all the nonsense we couldn't fit in. If unused spit takes, flubbed dialogue, and extra improvisation are so uproarious, why not give us 90 minutes of that?

"License to Wed" is tolerable for about five. Mandy Moore and John Krasinski play an engaged couple who want her priest (Robin Williams ) to preside over the ceremony. He agrees but recommends following his program designed to test their commitment to each other. What he does to them -- forbidding sex, bugging their apartment, provoking fights -- amounts to pre-conjugal terrorism. The moviemakers are going for the feel-good antagonism of "Meet the Parents " and "Meet the Fockers ." But at the very least that sort of abrasiveness needs a comic premise missing from this movie. Realistically, if your girlfriend's priest beans you in the nose with a baseball, wouldn't you tell her? Krasinski shrugs it off. This is the kind of movie where the offenses don't stick or escalate. The only thing building is our aggravation with these characters, especially Williams's.

He has some decent improvised lines that seem borrowed from that blooper reel. But he plays passive-aggressive manipulation with an avuncular righteousness that makes you wish the movie were a thriller, so Moore or Krasinski could throw him from a window. Moore isn't allowed to be more than sweet, though, as American comedies are wont to do to her and most women her age. That she might be funny has to be taken as an article of faith, since movies don't trust women to handle a joke unless it's on them. Is a character named Sadie Wilhelmina Jones capable of comedy , though?

Between them, only Krasinski gets to play the laughs. He's in the Ben Stiller role here. But he's not allowed Stiller's comic retribution -- or maybe he has no capacity for exasperation. He's much better as the wiseacre sales associate, Jim, on "The Office." The film's director, Ken Kwapis , is a TV veteran who's directed a handful of episodes of that show, but this movie makes you appreciate how the writing dictates the tone of "The Office." There's nothing he can do with a script so severely detached from comedy -- and reality.

This is the sort of lobotomized, condescendingly lazy movie that leaves you resentful of Hollywood. When a mechanical baby spitefully urinates in Krasinski's face, it's the only moment you can identity with anybody in "License to Wed." Bad movies get made all the time, but this one seems complacent about its badness. It's also prudish. Williams narrates the opening minutes, and right before Moore and Krasinski can get down to business, the movie interrupts. "You didn't think I was going to let you see that," Williams says, confirming almost instantly that the target audience for a comedy about a serious adult relationship is in the third grade.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com. For more on movies, go to boston.com/ae/ movies/blog.

'Related'

License to Wed

Directed by: Ken Kwapis

Written by: Kim Barker , Tim Rasmussen , and Vince Di Meglio

Starring: Robin Williams , Mandy Moore , and John Krasinski

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 100 minutes

Rated: PG-13 (Sexual humor and language)

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