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The Wedding Singer

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Wedding Singer

Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore
Director: Frank Coraci
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 96 Minutes
Release Date: February 1998
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Allen Covert, Matthew Glave, Billy Idol

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Edward Johnson-Ott review follows movie reviewvideo review
2.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
3.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
1½ stars out of 4

It would be easy to dismiss "The Wedding Singer." The film is admittedly fluff; just another throwaway comedy from a Saturday Night Live alumnus. The characters are mostly two-dimensional and the jokes are obvious and often corny. But the central romantic storyline is so sweet and good natured that it's fairly easy to overlook the film's many shortcomings. Ultimately, "The Wedding Singer" succeeds as light entertainment, a surprising triumph of charm over shtick. Set in 1985, the story focuses on Robby Hart (Adam Sandler,) a former rock star wannabe who earns his living singing at weddings. Robby is very good at his job, as evidenced in the opening scene, when a drunken best man (Steve Buscemi) turns a toast into a hateful tirade and Robby's adept damage control defuses the volatile situation. An incurable romantic, Robby's world comes crashing down around him when his childhood sweetheart (Angela Featherstone) leaves him standing at the altar. He collapses into a bundle of pain and self-pity, only to be drawn out by Julia (Drew Barrymore,) an innocent young co-worker engaged to a philandering stud (Matthew Glave.) Will Robby and Julia escape their wretched fates and find true love together? You do the math. >From a script by Judd Apatow, Carrie Fisher and Tim Herlihy, "The Wedding Singer" operates on two very elementary levels. There's the love story, of course, which is straightforward and sentimental without getting too sticky. The rest of the film is broad comedy, playing off the pop culture and manners of the mid-80s. Predictably, the film makes great sport of the entertainment and fashions of the period. Julia's fiancee wears the latest "Miami Vice" pastel outfits, complete with a perpetual three-day growth of beard. Other supporting characters ape the fashion stylings of Boy George, Madonna and Michael Jackson, while jokes about Rubik's Cubes, "Dallas," A Flock Of Seagulls and Van Halen are self-consciously inserted. The gags about the 80s are sometimes funny, despite being overly obvious and smug. In a few years, we'll probably be subjected to comedies looking back on those wacky days in the 90s, featuring tattooed, multi-pierced characters in droopy trousers prattling on about Laser Tag, "South Park," and the Spice Girls. The film's most tired joke involves an elderly person acting "hip," in this case an old lady "bustin' a move" to the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight." Back in 1972, Ruth Gordon pioneered the "isn't it hilarious when octogenarians use trendy slang and swear" genre of comedy in "Harold and Maude." It was funny then, but only for about half of the film. 26 years later, the joke is annoying beyond belief. So why is "The Wedding Singer" getting a marginal recommendation? Because of Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler. Barrymore has grown from "that cute little girl in 'E.T.'" into a beautiful, fresh-faced young woman. A few years ago, Barrymore appeared on David Letterman's show the night he was celebrating his birthday. As her gift, she danced on his desk, at one point turning her back on the audience and briefly flashing her breasts at Dave. On numerous occasions, Letterman has talked about his fond memories of the incident, always describing Barrymore as "charming" and "sweet." It's easy to understand why he'd feel that way. Barrymore possesses such an air of innocence that actions that might seem vulgar if done be others come off as playful and disarming. As Julia, she is a delight, radiating a fresh-scrubbed goodness and generating real chemistry with Sandler. For his part, Sandler does his best film work to date, playing an actual person for the first time. Sandler, who can somehow look handsome and gooney simultaneously, is an intriguing performer, with a career built on playing a variety of whining half-wits. He's the kind of comic who is often funny, but just as often so irritating that you'd like to take a swing at him. In "The Wedding Singer," Sandler reigns in his more annoying character traits for the most part, playing a veritable Boy Scout lost in the self-centered, hedonistic 80s. If he continues in this vein and avoids reverting to his idiot persona, he may actually be able to play a full-fledged adult someday. In addition to Sandler and Barrymore, "The Wedding Singer" boasts a terrific soundtrack, packed with great songs from the 80s. Pretend-punk Billy Idol even makes a cameo appearance, playing himself in the film's cheesy, but satisfying climax. Thanks to Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, "The Wedding Singer" is a modest success, offering laughs and a tender romance to boot. The film is just a trifle, but in the mid-winter cinematic wasteland, you have to grade on a curve.

Copyright 1998 Edward Johnson-Ott

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