License to Wed is the story of a religious sociopath who forces his way into the personal lives of a young couple in the month before their wedding, demanding that they perform arbitrary tricks for his psychotic amusement and keeping them under constant electronic surveillance to ensure that they never drift too far from his cruel whims.

Reverend Frank is played by Robin Williams, whose flirtation with dark characters continues in this role where he manages to turn his manic comedic sensibilities to the creation of a psychotic monster who amuses only himself and leaves the audience with a sense of abject terror and hatred...

Hold on, the research gnomes are IM'ing me.

Oh, I see.

Well, fuck a duck, apparently License to Wed is a comedy, and that changes things. Here's the interesting thing about comedies, their aesthetic quality is usually judged as a direct product of their humorous content. There are good films that are good comedies (i.e. Billy Wilder) and bad films that are good comedies which are therefore judged to be masterpieces (i.e. the Marx films at Paramount). License to Wed is not actually a very bad film; director Ken Kwapis (a veteran of everything from Dunston Checks In to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants to Malcolm in the Middle) doesn't half have a bad eye, and he's got a pretty fine sense of pacing - the film positively flies past, which is a blessing - and if he ever turned his hand to an Ordinary People-style family drama, he'd quite possibly rock it.

But License to Wed isn't an Ordinary People-style family drama, it's a bitterly unfunny romantic comedy. It's not quite as bad as some would have it (it will not, for example, kill puppies), but it is really very horrible. I've never been completely sure whether I grew out of liking Robin Williams, or if he started getting really bad at just the point where I was starting to develop a sense of taste, but either way the effect is pretty much the same: at this point in history, his shtick is aggravating and alienating and not even a teeny tiny bit amusing.

He's plopped into a film that is just barely a teeny tiny bit amusing, as well it ought to be given that it stars Mandy Moore and Jon Krasinski as the hapless engaged couple who run afoul of Reverend Frank's marriage-prep course. And somehow, Krasinski and Kwapis managed to drag along a scary number of Office ensemble players to stain their careers, turning this into a distracting "Where's Waldo?" experience: hey, it's Kevin, but he's not funny! Hey, it's Angela, but she's not funny! Hey...and so forth.

The film would be a totally inoffensive, machine-pressed romcom, but for the swarthy manchild at its center. Basically, Reverend Frank is evil (he bugs the couple's bedroom, for God's sake), and Williams's all-too-typical approach of funny voices and nerve-wracking gesticulation do not make the character any more lovable. If this was ever going to work, it was going to work because the overreaching maniac at the center was played as a sort of devilishly self-aware prankster après Jack Nicholson, but "devilish" and "self-aware" are not in Robin Williams's vocabulary, and so the film becomes a punishing exercise in joyless zaniness.