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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

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

What have we come to as a culture that we can look with nostalgia at the events of a mere decade ago? To most people nostalgia means events that happened several decades ago. Even films about the 70s like THE ICE STORM and BOOGIE NIGHTS seem to be covering a time that happened too recently to parody with bad clothes and ridiculous sets. THE WEDDING SINGER attempts a nostalgic look at the classic period of the mid-1980s, 1985 to be precise.

Although most people will have trouble remembering how 1985 was different from today, THE WEDDING SINGER clears it up. In the previous decade we wore incredibly bad clothes with heavy reliance on clashing colors of lavender, pink, and lime green. Our tastes in household decorations looked like an updated version of the ticky-tacky 50s. How soon we forget how awful we were.

THE WEDDING SINGER frustrates and delights with equal measures. One minute it is an over-the-top comedy that is gratingly bad, and the next it is a surprising sweet and touching little romance. Director Frank Coraci exerts little control over his picture, which drifts aimlessly from bad to good and then back again.

The story's male lead, Robby Hart, is a singer once on a track to be a rock star but who has become a $60-a-gig singer at weddings instead. He loves his work and shows compassion for every member of the wedding party, even the homely teenagers who can't get anyone to dance with them. Robby himself is engaged to be married, but his fiancee (Angela Featherstone) leaves him standing at the altar when she decides she loved the old would-be rock star and not the new wedding singer.

With long hair and a completely different look and approach, HAPPY GILMORE's star, Adam Sandler, plays Robby. His uneven performance can be blamed partly on the script by Tim Herlihy, who also penned HAPPY GILMORE, but it is mostly Sandler's own fault. When he keeps himself under control, he can be quite likable.

The main reason, other than the energetic music, for the success of the movie is the lovely performance by the female lead, Drew Barrymore. With a pixyish smile and an enchanting personality, she plays a waitress name Julia. Julia is engaged and her romance, like Robby's, is equally ill-fated. Her fiance (Matthew Glave) is a junk bond king who drives a DeLorean and cheats on Julia day and night.

In the predictable, but none the less charming, romance developing between them, Robby and Julia don't realize that they are in love until almost the end. They introduce themselves as brother and sister to explain why they look so much like a couple, but aren't. It isn't until Julia practices her wedding ceremony kiss with Robby -- she's not sure the degree of tongue that is appropriate in a church setting -- that they realize that they have the hots for each other.

When Robby isn't doing something stupid like the embarrassingly bad scene in which he ruins someone else's wedding party just because he is depressed, the chemistry between Julia and Robby is genuine and captivating. Drew Barrymore has innocence down pat. When her fiance mistreats her, you personally want to go into the screen and beat the guy up.

The supporting cast has lots of promise, partially realized. Steve Buscemi plays a badly dressed drunk who humiliates his brother, who is getting married. Ellen Albertini Dow plays an octogenarian who brags about the number of times she had sexual intercourse before marrying her husband. Allen Covert is Robby's limo driving buddy named Sammy. Sammy, whose role model in life is Fonzie, realizes the limitations of his playboy lifestyle. "No one wants to see a 50-year-old guy hitting on chicks," Sammy laments as he contemplates his future.

If -- and that's a big if -- you can ignore the stupefyingly bad comedy, you will find that the movie has a big heart underneath. Rewritten this could be a wonderful movie. Even as it is, it still has a lot to recommend it.

THE WEDDING SINGER runs 1:38. It is rated PG-13 for sex-related material and language and would be fine for kids around ten and up.

Copyright 1998 Steve Rhodes

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