Robbie Hart (Adam Sandler) is an affable young man who thinks he has it all, wowing audiences on a nightly basis with his crowd pleasing cabaret turn as a wedding singer. Robbie is engaged to be wed to his sweetheart Linda (Angela Featherstone) however things take a decided downturn for him when he is unceremoniously stood up at the altar, and his life slowly starts to unravel. After seeing his dreams of a romantic wedding shot up in flames, Robbie becomes a melancholic recluse, living like a hobbit in his makeshift bedroom constructed within his sister's cellar. That is until he gets to know waitress Julia Sullivan (Drew Barrymore), and answers her cry for help to achieve the perfect wedding for her and her stockbroker fiancée Glenn Guglia (Matthew Glave). As the wedding date approaches fast, the Robbie and Julia find themselves getting closer, until the wedding singer finds himself falling in love with her, bringing with it a whole host of complications and consequences.
Coming from the pen of Tim Herlihy, the man whose collaborations with Sandler have yielded such abominations as Big Daddy and Little Nicky, and directed by fellow associate Frank Coracci who brought us the painfully unfunny The Waterboy, The Wedding Singer represents somewhat of a career high for the triumvirate: a film that is actually pretty good. The success of The Wedding Singer is however, almost entirely based on aesthetic. The direction is fairly anonymous, the script isn't really very funny for a comedy, and the acting is on the whole pretty average. What lifts this from 'just another annoying Adam Sandler vehicle' is the absolutely wonderful nostalgic trip back twenty years to the eighties in all their glory. Many films have strived to set their locale back into eighties America and failed miserable (Donnie Darko being the most obviously pointless of aesthetic attempts), but The Wedding Singer stands as the most authentic, memorable, and downright affectionate paean to the decade that style forgot since the days those loveable rascals the two Corey's were getting up to cinematic high-jinks in a Cineplex near you. Much in the same way is nostalgia is perpetually kind to the whorry old clichés of the John Hughes romantic comedies of the time, so does The Wedding Singer triumphantly rise above the sum of its ports to provide a thoroughly entertaining and undemanding 100mins.
Much of the film's enjoyment stems from its straightforwardness. You won't find any labyrinthine twists and turns in the plotwork, which trace as a direct descendant and homage to similarly themed rom-coms from the original eighties scene. Herlihy may not be a dynamite scriptwriter, but he does exhibit an admirable knowledge and appreciation of the films he mimics, making The Wedding Singer the most honest and successful evocation of the innocent simplicity of the genre some twenty years ago. The whole movie plays very much like an eighties teen romance re-imagined for twentysomethings, placing them within an adult world where in fact everything is still as it was when the protagonists were younger. Robbie and Julia still inhabit the responsibility free existence of youth with menial part-time jobs, drunken parties, and a dependency on family. Julia's fiancé Glenn is the archetypal jock love interest re-imagined as a callous and crude product of the yuppie generation. It's Pretty in Pink for grown-up life.
Tragically the comedic side of things falls flat for the most part, being pleasing enough but never actually laughter inducing, which is a shame because a little extra spark in the humour department could really have elevated the movie from well-intentioned time waster to something more. Most of the supposed laughs come across as forced japery, crass wordplay or overindulgent mugging which goes at odds with the tender nature of the story. Thankfully what Herlihy lacks in lampoonery, he atones for in the romantic quota, where the story is treated with subtle restraint and is never allowed to fall into the realms of over-syrupy schmatzfest that plague many similar cinematic ventures.
Acting on a whole is solid if unspectacular, with only Steve Buscemi's brief turn as an alcoholic best man standing out as truly memorable. However, the actors take a noticeable back-step to the aesthetic construction of the film, which is truly wonderful. The costumes and sets display the work of a team truly in nostalgic love with the era, and Adam Sandler is almost unrecognisable with clothes from Spandau Ballet and a wig via Al Pacino. The true standout in the film however, is the truly superb soundtrack of era classics, which has been constructed with a true respect and influence from films of yore. Even if the film lets you down on the comedic aspects, it's impossible not to raise a smile at the nostalgic evocation of the era through a string of marvellous period tunes that play consistently throughout the movie.
What we have here is certainly not a classic, it's not high art by any means, and it does have some pretty noticeable flaws. In terms of simple and effective undemanding entertainment though, The Wedding Singer delivers the goods. Its construction of the aura of the quintessential eighties romantic comedy is to be commended, and any nostalgia hounds who want to relive their youth in a modern setting could do worse than invest in this tasteful homage to the days when Brat Pack cinema ruled the roost.
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