The Wedding Singer (1998)

D: Frank Coraci
S: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Christine Taylor

Fairly enjoyable romantic comedy with a slight 1980s bent featuring Saturday Night Live comedian Adam Sandler in his third major starring vehicle. After the comedian centred Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, this time it seems to have worked on general audiences with the help of a stronger script and a softer romantic undercurrent. Sandler plays a struggling musician making ends meet by performing at weddings circa 1985 and is about to be married to the girl of his dreams, a self-centred former groupie. He meets waitress Drew Barrymore who is also about to be married, to a rich yuppie who worships Miami Vice. The dance which ensues follows the path to true love between nice boy and nice girl as nasty boy and nasty girl go by the wayside.

There's nothing very surprising here, and the film relies heavily on the appealing performances of its leads. Sandler does quite well in a romantic lead, as does Barrymore, backed up by an enjoyable turn by Christine Taylor as a Madonna wannabe. But the film hangs by a thread most of the way through, as it frequently seems like a big in-joke rather than a movie. Its occasional eighties-themed quips are funny, but they're just gags. Though a great deal of attention has been paid to developing a romantic comedy scenario (by credited writer Tim Herlihy and uncredited doctoring from Carrie Fisher and Judd Apatow), it is the scattershot pokes at 80s fashions and conventions which provoke the biggest laughs. Interestingly, the bulk of the 80s vibe comes from the film's hit soundtrack, which ranges all across the decade, and the costumes (including Michael Jackon's red leather jacket and rhinestone studded glove). The mean-spirited heartlessness of the era is notably absent except in passing moments. The film is nostalgic for an era barely passed, yet which has already been robbed of its zeitgeist and reduced to icons and signifiers. Ultimately, it's just a backdrop, and it frequently feels like an attempt to distract the audience from the mundanity of events otherwise in occurence on screen.

The film's best moments are its most outrageous, such as Sandler's performance at a wedding whilst in the depths of depression and some cartoonish nonsense involving Billy Idol and other first class passengers on a plane to Las Vegas. Ultimately, despite all evidence to the contrary, it remains a silly comedy tailored to the talents of its leading man, and though it will probably appeal to the crossover audience, it is still most likely to work best with fans of his particular style.

Review by Harvey O'Brien copyright 1998.