The greatest thing about movies revolving around weddings is not, actually, the weddings themselves. Instead, it’s the dramatic and hilarious (hopefully) events leading up to the big day. Personally, I love seeing the different cinematic ways of displaying the wedding jitters, cold feet, and second thoughts. In both P.J. Hogan’s My Best Friend’s Wedding and Ken Kwapis’s License to Wed, they take full advantage of their upcoming unions by making the audience wait until the bitter end to see if the couple makes it down the aisle. Both films focus on the amusing situations their characters get themselves into, and ultimately make the bride-and-groom-to-be question whether they should even get married in the first place.
License to Wed brings a star-studded cast from every discipline, whether it’s series regulars from television (The Office, Big Love), familiar faces from film (Robin Williams, Christine Taylor), or even if a pop semi-star from the Billboard charts (Mandy Moore). Our newly-to-be-wed and newly-appointed leads, Sadie Jones and Ben Murphy, are a happily-in-love couple who decide to take the plunge. The catch is, sincere Sadie (played by Moore) wants to get married to Ben (played by John Krasinski) in her family’s church and wants her crazy reverend to ordain the ceremony. In one of his regular over-the-top comic performances, Robin Williams plays the reverend who runs an unusual wedding preparation course and now needs to complete it in the three weeks before the big day, thus giving the movie its comic ticking clock. There’s nothing much real here, especially in the story, since the movie centers on this absolutely insane and completely illogical marriage preparation class, which includes animatronic babies, wire tapping, and late night class sessions at a local bar.
The Defending Champion
By now, ten years since its release, My Best Friend’s Wedding has gained the status of a modern romantic comedy classic. It stars the now very established actors and actresses who include Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, Rupert Everett, and Dermot Mulroney. The engaged couple in this film is not what you would expect. It’s Kimmy and Michael (played by Cameron Diaz and Dermot Mulroney). Michael has found the love of his life, who is also a fabulously wealthy heir to a big fortune. She’s many years his junior, but being played by the charismatic Cameron Diaz in a Ron Bass script that does not stack the deck against her, it’s a fair cat-fight. Before Kimmy was ever in the picture (or maybe even before she was even in middle school), Jules (played by Julia Roberts) was Michael’s main squeeze. They were best friends who completely understood each other, but the catch here is that they vowed to marry each other by their 28th birthdays. This pact from the past rears its ugly bridal veil and generates some authentic-feeling conflict when Jules finds out through his wedding invitation that Michael is engaged to be married. What could be better than the maid of honor wanting to ruin the wedding and run off with the groom? That, as they say in the movie business, is a good problem.
Both films use the concept of marriage as a giant obstacle course that its characters need to fight through before getting to the finish line. Both explore the overall message that love is what makes the obstacle course called marriage work. The paths they each choose, however, are very different, as we’ve said.
In License to Wed, Sadie and Ben have to complete those ridiculous tasks (ranging from abstaining from sex to having to learn to fight with each other in front of a group to writing their own vows) before they can get married in Reverend Frank’s church. I doubt I’d even be around to write this review if my own parents had to pass Reverend Frank’s improbable obstacle course.
In My Best Friend’s Wedding, the obstacles, instead of being scheduled tasks, are actually a lot of unforseen problems. Whether it’s Jules’s gay best friend (wonderfully played by Rupert Everett) pretending to be her fiancé, or Jules’s faking an email from the bride’s father to his future son-in-law, or a car chase through downtown, or even a screaming match in a woman’s public restroom, it all makes marriage seem like survival of the fittest. But the obstacles seem more organic.
Feeling organic or real is not a prerequisite to being good, however. Many films are made of improbable setups. So this could still go either way…
Okay, I have to admit that even though most movies are not actually real, the ones that work the best feel as if they are. That includes the great Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love, Actually. In this particular Smackdown, there’s no doubt that My Best Friend’s Wedding takes the cake (a four tier, chocolate mousse, white frosting wedding cake). The authentic and genuine My Best Friend’s Wedding simply knocks out the contrived and forced License to Wed. So save your money and time, spend a night in, and rent My Best Friend’s Wedding. Who knows? You might even break out into “I Say A Little Prayer” by Dionne Warwick by the end! But don’t go see License to Wed because that might encourage them to make more like it.