Home Page > Movies Index (w/mixed oldies) > > Movie Review

This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Meet the Minister

License to Wed (2007) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Church serviceAfter dating six months, yuppie couple Sadie Jones (Mandy Moore) and Ben Murphy (John Krasinski) get engaged at the thirtieth anniversary celebration of her parents (Peter Strauss & Roxanne Hart.) Family tradition dictates they get married at St. Augustine's, a Protestant high church. The eccentric pastor Reverend Frank (Robin Williams) has them attend his mandatory marriage prep class where he crams three months of material into three weeks to meet his schedule demands (“I'm popular.”) It's designed to simulate the first thirty years of marriage.

The simulation exercises are brutally realistic, enough to shake the hopeful couple to the very core. The trans­for­mation of their once cheery countenances into sour grimaces goes to show the truth of the expression, “A pessimist is an optimist with experience.”


To start with a definition of marriage, I'll quote Dr. Ide: “The Con­tem­por­ary Christian stan­dard was defined not by the bible but gen­er­ated by Roman law as defined by the jurist Modes­tinus who argued that marriage was ‘consortium omnis vitae, divini et humani iuris communi­catio: a life-long part­ner­ship, and a sharing of civil and religious rights’” (83–5). The religious aspect was presided over by Rev. Frank who also acted as an agent of the state for the civil part.

The religious dimension was marvelously introduced by a cut prologue—the 1st of the deleted scenes—The History of Men and Women Since Adam and Eve. In animated sequences we first see God making man, then making woman, then things got “complicated.” Eve gave Adam an apple to eat. By definition marriage is a liaison between a man and a woman.

brontosaurusMoving on we see lush tropical vegetation, a couple of dinosaurs in the brush, and by a fire a cave­woman complaining to her cave­man, “No like all day cook.” A little disagreement over division of labor here. She bops him over the head with a bone. Theirs was probably a marriage by capture, still practiced by some aborigines where the man gives the woman a ritualistic love tap to take her as his his mate.

George Washington portraitMoving on we come to George Washington complaining to Martha he doesn't like minding the kids. Here we've moved to the realm of integrity (“I cannot tell a lie”) in marriage.

Next comes the Territory of Utah and formalized vows: “In sickness and in health till death do us part.” Here is formulated what is expected of a marriage.

That was the (alas, deleted) prologue. The movie proper starts from the other direction, St. Augustine's being the church Sadie's folks got married in, and her grand­father helped build. The sports team is called “The St. Augustine Crusaders” harking back to the Crusades. The church itself is named for a renowned historical figure, and the song the choir sings, “Oh Happy Day” (when Jesus walked) goes back to the incarnation. The Parish house is referred to as “John the Baptist's house”—who really lived in the desert. In the church basement is a mural depicting “Noah and his Ark” with pairs of elephants, zebras, ducks, and lions. We earlier saw two bronto­sauruses from the intro­duc­tory time line. The lines coming from both directions meet here to mark an historical continuum in marriage as a religious institution. When friends and family insist that the wedding take place in their church, it represents that marriage is necessarily in part religious even were the couple troglodytes.

The gathering of “friends and family” represents that there be a public ceremony as before witnesses. That “Frank is every­where” indicates there's always some­one available to preside over the ceremony.

Welcome to America
Now Speak EnglishThe civil dimension was shown by a fraudulent marriage between illegal alien Maria Gonzales from Guatemala and one Frank Littleton, both members of Rev. Frank's congregation. Nobody there heard of the “certain parties” coopted to be witnesses, and in fact the pair divorced after she obtained her green card. The state took care of the civil matter independent of a nonexistent marriage as far as the congregation was concerned.

The apostle Paul maintained a qualified approval of marriage: (1Cor. 7:28) “But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Never­the­less such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.” Rev. Frank likens marriage to “sticking your tongue on a frozen flag­pole.” It looks like fun so you think you'll give it a try and then you're stuck.

Sadie and Ben had communication problems. Ben was a man of action but found it hard to express his feelings verbally. He couldn't say “I love you” at first, his hand-written vows were more on the order of “jumpin' da broom” that Negro slaves did to get married in old days, and even the engraving on the ring he messed up. He was a man of action, not words. Unfortu­nately, he turned for advice to his best man Joel (DeRay Davis) who as far as marriage was concerned was like a deer caught in the head­lights. Marriage to him was “a blur.” All he knows is to point and say, “My wife … my kids … my beer.”

Sadie on the other hand whipped out her vows right away and couldn't under­stand why Ben was taking so long to write his. For advice she kept turning to her wise friend since child­hood Carlisle (Eric Christian Olsen) instead of to Ben whom she needed to learn to rely on.

Production Values

” (2007) was directed by Ken Kwapis. Its screenplay was written by Kim Barker and Tim Rasmussen. It stars Mandy Moore, John Krasinski, and Robin Williams. Williams proved his worth as usual. Moore and Krasinski did fine in their pedestrian roles with great chemistry between them. Casting little Josh Flitter as Choir Boy, the Reverend's side­kick, was an inspiration. He enjoyed tormenting the hapless couple too much for it not to be funny. Ben Stiller's ex-wife played Mandy Moore's divorced sister.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for sexual humor and language. It was filmed on location in Chicago, Illinois, USA. The Commandment Challenge parses the Ten Commandments by the Catholic reckoning—same words either way. What's novel is putting the commandment to honor one's parents at the head of the list, and indeed there is a lot of such honoring done in the movie. There are a lot of fun out­takes at the end. The church was well integrated, but there were no mixed couples in counseling. A deleted scene obliquely refers to a “Mr. Simpson” in the context of “Thou shalt not kill.”

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

I recommend watching the prologue directly before the movie, the first of the deleted scenes, without the com­men­tary. It's witty and it's brief. The church itself was always in the back­ground while being the epitome of letting its light shine. I thought the movie was a riot. It didn't rely too much on one tired joke. It's a good romantic comedy.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years with guidance. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Good Date Movie. Suspense: A terminal spell of suspense. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Ide, Arthur Frederick. Noah & the Ark: The Influence of Sex, Homophobia and Heterosexism in the Flood Story and its Writing.
  Las Colinas: Monument Press, 1992. Print.