Running Time: 100 mins
Rated: Rated M (moderate coarse language, adult themes, low level sex scene).
What actually does it take to earn such a license? In this Romantic Comedy a good deal of spoofing and free wheeling Game Show hosting by Parish Priest, Reverend Frank, comes at the expense of the comely young couple, [Mandy Moore and John Kasinski], who wish to marry. While it all does end happily ever after, and maybe the couple does learn a thing or two, we are left with the usual TV Wedding: all flowers, white dress and the Kiss, plus a very bad taste in our mouths about the Church via Rev Frank played by Robin Williams.
The bride to be, Sadie, has a sentimental desire to tie the knot in St Augustine's, her local parish. When the couple make their first visit, they are confronted by a Parish clearly running at full throttle. The Rev Frank is playing a kind of Mortal Sin Bingo with his young RE class. These innocents are rallied on mercilessly, even the wan child who has two mothers is compelled to guess. Once alone with the couple the Priest morphs from scary Game Show Host to STASI Agent. His compulsory Marriage Prep Course is unsavoury, invasive and sort of funny. Robin Williams is a natural comic of course.
Over the three weeks of the course, Sadie and Ben, the young couple, manage okay with 'the argument when lost in the car' practice and even the appalling Desk Top fake babies they are given to teach them about parenthood. Things come more unstuck in the 'communicate section' where Rev Frank insists on Sadie driving a car in a blindfold inscribed with the St Augustine's logo. Throughout all this, the skulduggery of the clergy and his intensely irritating para-clergy side-kick, know no bounds, as they snoop on the couple from a roving van and bug their bedroom. When does the Rev. get time to write his sermons you wonder? But Rev. Frank has got every base covered, even when Ben thinks he has dug some dirt on him.
At the same time, there are telling moments spun mainly around the truth-speaking of vows. The opening sequence ironically counterpoints Sadie's father's overly comfortable avowal of enduring love at his 30th Wedding Anniversary Bash with the rather lovely, shy, hesitant and sincere proposal Ben makes to Sadie at the same event. When their engagement is finally broken it is, sadly, Ben's failure to write his wedding vow which finishes it for Sadie. But so much has already been said? At the very end, when they finally get together at the honeymoon destination, he wins her back by writing his vows in front of her window, (somewhat unnervingly),on the sand.
What is the Church about, really, in the context of marriage? An impediment? A loud mouthed bully? An irrelevance? In this movie the Hollywood marriage genre remains firmly in place. The Church is another Hollywood and the Priest a demanding Director of the Wedding Show.
Village Roadshow Out Now
Mrs Jenny MacMillan is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.