Saturday, March 27, 2010

Quick Thoughts on License to Wed (2007)

License to Wed (Dir. Ken Kwapis, 2007)

To the extent that it already begins with the coupled formed, License to Wed differs slightly from the conventional Romantic Comedy set-up even if all the obvious story beats and narrative arcs are present. It's more about marriage as an institution rather than the unfolding of a successful "romance." Unintentionally perhaps this frees the film from even bothering with the standard humanist reflex that the wills, emotions, and desires of the couple can determine their happiness. Everything about the film is allowed to be openly mechanized.

Consider the labored and unfunny premise: Mandy Moore's character, Sadie Jones, dreams of a traditional church marriage. The gimmick is that her church, led by the weird and creepy Reverend Frank ( played by Robin Williams), requires her and her finance (played by John Krasinski from The Office) to undergo a bizarrely intrusive form of marriage boot camp testing. Among the dubious tests Reverend Frank employs is to repeatedly bug the couple to record their conversations. Yet, the most telling scenes are when the Reverend gives them mechanical babies to teach the difficulties of child rearing.

Here are three shots from the scene. The first shows the babies, the second is a close-up of a terrible mechanical baby diaper changing joke. The third is the Reverend's kid helper controlling the couple's experiences with the "babies."

In a nutshell, these three images explain away the narrative structure of License to Wed: it is like the mechanical baby that shits itself by remote control. Or in less snide terms, the film snapshots the fascinating devolution of the romantic comedy by giving us mechanized baby poop jokes. More troublesome is the way in which these images speak to how many Americans are committed to defending or saving crumbling institutions even when they only further dehumanize society. (Remember that the couple in the film only subjects themselves to mechanized pooping babies because Sadie dreams of a traditional marriage in a church!) Marriage and the romantic comedy for that matter are "too big to fail" even if humans no longer are.

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