HTF HD DVD REVIEW: License to Wed

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Ken_McAlinden, Oct 29, 2007.

  1. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    XenForo Template License to Wed Directed By: Ken Kwapis Starring: Robin Williams, Mandy Moore, John Krasinski, DeRay Davis, Josh Flitter, Eric Christian Olsen, Christine Taylor
    Studio: Warner Brothers Year: 2007 Rated: PG-13 Film Length: 91 minutes Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, English SDH Release Date: October 30, 2007
    The Film In "License to Wed", John Krasinski and Mandy Moore play Ben Murphy and Sadie Jones, a couple who have just announced their engagement. Sadie insists that they get married at the church she attended as a child. In order to do this, they must negotiate the unorthodox marriage preparation course required by Reverend Frank (Williams). Each element of the course seems designed to become progressively more awkward, embarassing, and invasive of their privacy. Ben continually questions the need for this increasingly humiliating ordeal and only makes things worse when he tries to fight back. Without wasting time, I will just get to the point and say that this is one terrible movie involving a lot of fairly talented individuals. The problems appear to start at the script stage, where the film was conceived as a Frankenstein's monster assemblage of the worst romantic and teen comedy clichés of the last several decades assembled into a transparently obvious three-act structure. The principle characters are required to act like complete imbeciles in order to make the plot advance, which prevents the viewer from developing any level of sympathy or interest in their success or failure. Based on their work in other projects, Krasinski and Moore are very attractive and likeable actors, but you would never know that from watching this film. Moore is undercut by the aforementioned idiot plot and some strange decisions by the hair and make-up folks that make her look like she had an allergic reaction to a bee sting after spending too much time in the sun. Director Kwapis either encouraged or at minimum allowed Krasinski to engage in too many mugging reaction shots that feel like they are telling the audience when they should find something funny or outrageous. Krasinski is similarly indulged when he appears on the television show "The Office", many episodes of which have been directed by Kwapis, but in that show, it plays as a silent communication between his character and the crew that is supposedly shooting a documentary film about his company. There is no excuse for this in the absence of the documentary conceit. Williams tries to breathe some life into the character of the implausibly outrageous Reverend Frank, but for every funny bit he manages to create (I will not list any because they are so few in number that I do not want to spoil the only moments of enjoyment the film has to offer), he is saddled with a line as horrific as "So let me be Frank. Well, of course, I am Frank". Worse yet, he is saddled with a sidekick/protégé identified as "Choir Boy" played by juvenile actor Josh Flitter whose purpose was probably to generate some easy laughs, but will probably remind audiences of recent stories they have read about pedophile clergymen more than of "Mini Me" from the Austin Powers movies. Director Kwapis fills out the supporting cast with talented actors who are asked to play things too broadly in scenes that go on for too long. One particular scene in a jewelry store featuring guest turns from Angela Kinsey and an un-credited Bob Balaban seems particularly interminable. Wanda Sykes has a few funny lines as a maternity ward nurse. DeRay Davis plays the most poorly-written friend with bad advice of all of the hundreds of friends with bad advice that have appeared in romantic and teen comedies since their presence in such films was mandated by the Writer's Guild in the late 1970s. Mindy Kaling barely registers as Davis' highly critical spouse. Brian Baumgartner and Rachael Harris play a different couple going through Reverend Frank's class, and I found myself wishing we could watch their characters' movie instead, which would likely be bad, but not as bad as this one. Somehow, the funniest characters in the movie wind up being a pair of hideously ugly robot babies who are good for a few cheap, if predictable, laughs. The Video The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 in a VC-1 encoding at 1080p. I viewed it via my Panasonic LCD projector with a native resolution of 720p. The video quality was acceptable, but a long way from demo material. Detail is less than I have come to expect from the best high definition transfers, and colors sometimes seemed a bit bland with slightly washed out contrast making things appear a bit smeared at times. The flip side of this combo disc presents a dual-layered standard definition DVD identical to the regular SD DVD release. It includes both a 16:9 enhanced 2.35:1 presentation and a 4:3 reformatted presentation of the film. For some reason, the DVD side is authored as an RSDL disc even though neither of the two versions of the film span both layers. I received a separate review copy of the standard definition release, and was able to sync up both discs for an A/B comparison. Both SD presentations looked significantly worse than their HD counterpart. They appear to be very bit-starved with lots of visible compression artifacts throughout, although I only sampled parts of the 4:3 presentation. The Audio Audio tracks include an English 5.1 Dolby True HD track as well as English, Spanish, and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus tracks. I do not have the gear to properly decode Dolby True HD out of my Toshiba HD A30, so I was only able to listen to the Dolby Digital Plus and the "core extract" of the True HD track which, not too surprisingly, sounded very similar. The sound field was concentrated in the front hemisphere, with the surrounds and LFE used only sparingly, and not all that creatively. Audio fidelity was good to very good with a nice, smooth frequency range and respectable dynamics noticeable most clearly during music passages. There was a noticeable improvement in audio fidelity versus the standard 448kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 track on the standard definition DVD. The Extras Extras start with a series of five deleted scenes running a little over twelve minutes total. They are available to view with or without commentary from director Kwapis. They consist of:
    • An alternate animated opening done in a Terry Gilliam/Monty Python cut-out style.
    • A scene in which Ben and Reverend Frank play one on one basketball with Choir Boy as the referee that was ultimately replaced by a scene where they play catch with a baseball.
    • A scene in which Ben admires a Basketball given to his fiancée's childhood friend, Carlyle, by Michael Jordan
    • A bachelor and bachelorette party sequence that runs almost six minutes and has a payoff that links back to the deleted Michael Jordan basketball sequence
    • A brief alternate ending with Reverend Frank and Choir Boy talking and walking along a Jamaican beach
    The only other extra is an interactive feature called "Ask Choir Boy". When selected, it brings up a menu screen with a picture of a multi-line telephone. Selecting the buttons for any one of the blinking lines will bring up a different segment where Choir Boy, assisted by an old church lady running the radio board, takes a phone call from a caller and offers advice that is supposed to be humorous. This feature is only mildly amusing and is unlikely to be watched more than once by anybody. No additional features appear on the HD DVD side, but there are a set of (skippable) promotional trailers on the SD side of the combo disc that appear when the disc is first spun up. They include a 31 second "Ocean's 13" DVD trailer, a 31 second "In the Land of Women" DVD trailer, a two minute and 32 second theatrical trailer for "P.S. I Love You", a two minute and 49 second trailer for the "Seinfeld Season 9" and "The Complete Series Gift Set" DVD releases, and a 32 second trailer for the "Ellen" daytime television talk show. All the promotional trailers are presented in 4:3 video, letterboxed when appropriate, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Packaging The disc is packaged in standard-issue HD DVD packaging with typical "big star head" promotional artwork on the cover. There is no disc art since it is an HD DVD/SD DVD combo "flipper". Menus are simple and straightforward due to the scarcity of extra features. The set-up sub-menu allows you to turn the menu audio effects on or off. Summary "License to Wed" is a fairly dreadful film consisting almost entirely of stale movie comedy clichés that wastes a potentially entertaining cast and fails to live up to the potential subversive nature of its premise. The film is given a somewhat lackluster HD presentation on this HD DVD, although the standard definition release, also included on the flip side of this combo disc, is even more problematic. Regards,
     
  2. Paul Hillenbrand

    Paul Hillenbrand Screenwriter

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    Thanks Ken for the review.

    Yikes![​IMG]

    My blu-ray disc is on the way. [​IMG]

    This was a blind buy.

    Paul
     
  3. Steven Burke

    Steven Burke Agent

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    Give it a whirl yourself - the PQ has been reviewed very highly on most sites, scoring 4.5 in three other instances, Home Theater Spot, High Def Forum and DVD Talk I believe.
     
  4. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    It's possible I was reacting negatively to how the actual film was shot and timed, but I still was underwhelmed by how it looked. I have also seen a lot of praise for the standard definition picture quality at other sites and that one was riddled with really obvious compression artifacts.

    Regards,
     

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