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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 Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Since fifty percent of marriages end up in divorce, we can no longer assume that the institution is a guaranteed lifetime contract. Still, matrimony is taken with some seriousness, enough to give people of both sexes the jitters as the big day approaches. A short time ago some guy left for Tahiti on his wedding day, a detail which received vast publicity by the media. Apparently he checked into his little dot on he map without his bride and without bothering to take his vows. When the crunch comes, feet can get awfully cold.

In "The Wedding Singer" director Frank Coraci aims to mine both the comedy and the pathos of such a situation in Judd Apatow, Carrie Fisher and Tim Herlihy's screenplay. He succeeds to a degree, unfolding a story of a guy who is a male variation of the adage "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride." Robby Hart (Adam Sandler) sings at other people's weddings but cries at his own: his childhood sweetheart, Linda (Angela Featherstone), simply did not show up, did not tell any of the guests of her belated decision, but days later volunteered the information that she was just not the same person she was when she was a kid. She no longer wanted to hitch up with poor Robby.

This movie is a vehicle for Adam Sandler, a veteran of "Saturday Night Live, and the cheerful golfer in the sporadically funny "Happy Gilmore." Targeting his shtick to an audience of twenty-somethings, Sandler knows how to turn on the emotions, turning his plight into material that draws laughter from his audience as he proceeds from sheer exuberance while performing on stage to utter depression when he is rebuffed so humiliatingly at his own wedding. Fortunately he runs into the lovely, sweet, and virtuous Julia (Drew Barrymore), who is waiting tables for the caterer at one of his gigs, and as the two meet informally from time to time, their friendship grows and so does their mutual, physical attraction.

Director Coraci has done a fine job re-creating and spoofing some of the cultural trends of the 1980s, a time in which yuppie-worship replaced hippie-adulation. The decade's motifs do not bode well for Robby since the gals tend to seek guys who can offer them the security of the picket fence, the De Lorean car, and the array of gold cards. Scraping up money whenever he can land a job at non-union rates for Bar Mitzvahs and weddings, Robby is forced to live in the basement of his grandmother's home and, after his rejection by his long-term lover, is reduced to both poverty and emotional misery. What's more, he thinks he has little chance to match up with Julia, who has for several years been the girl friend of Glenn (Matthew Glave) the rich and handsome bond- trader who has finally agreed to setting the date.

In a predictable story laced with the shopworn spoofs of eras inferior to our own (pastel wedding gowns, chintzy- looking women with teased hair, octogenarians who still have an eye for the provocative wiggle and who say things you'd expect from the mouth of nineteen-year-olds), "The Wedding Singer" depends on the chemistry between Robby and Julia. The growing excitement they feel for each other is there, all right, but Adam Sandler is not exceptionally appealing as a whining anti-hero, a role best left to Woody Allen. Too often, the dialogue calls for stereotyping the elderly. In one quick scene, grandma Rosie (Ellen Albertini Dow) delivers a rap song in front of a microphone after previous confessing to her grandson that she had "intercourse with eight men before her marriage" and an old man in a bar (Carmen Filpi) announces to Robbie apropos of nothing, "You need a prostitute." Christine Taylor fares better as Holly, a sexually liberated woman who knows what she wants and uses no euphemisms to proclaim it, and Matthew Glave excels as the wealthy fiance who makes the mistake of describing his adulterous intentions with Robbie.

"The Wedding Singer" is a sentimental, romantic comedy that affirms what we all know, deep down--that friendship should precede love. The motif is furthered by a Drew Barrymore's charming performance as a sweet young thing but marred by Sandler's lack of appeal and stereotyped characters like George (Alexis Arquette), a musician who comes across as a transvestite, and Rosie, whose adolescent dialogue is more embarrassing than cute.

Copyright 1998 Harvey Karten

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