Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 20, 2014)
While most Adam Sandler movies shoot for the teen boy demographic, every once in a while he churns out one with broader appeal. 1998’s The Wedding Singer was his first “date night” effort and it proved to be quite a success. Its $80 million gross represented Sandler’s biggest at that time. Sure, later that year he’d trample that figure; The Waterboy made more than twice the take of Singer.
Nonetheless, Singer stands as one of the flicks that helped build Sandler’s public profile, and it remains one of his best-regarded efforts. Set in 1985, Singer casts Sandler as Robbie Hart, a former rocker who now makes a buck crooning at weddings. He plans to marry long-time girlfriend Linda (Angela Featherstone) but she jilts him and leaves him at the altar.
In the meantime, Robbie meets Julia (Drew Barrymore), a new waitress at the weddings. She intends to wed yuppie Glenn (Matthew Glave). They’ve been engaged for quite some time but he finally agrees to go through with the actual nuptials.
After Julia helps bring Robbie out of his post-breakup depression, he helps her plan her wedding. Along the way, the two fall for each other. Complications ensue to keep them apart – at least until the end.
Normally I try to avoid spoilers, but if anyone over the age of four feels surprised that Robbie and Julia eventually unite, they need to get out more. To call the plot and progress of Singer predictable would be a serious understatement. There’s not a single twist or turn in this flick that can’t be seen miles in advance.
And that doesn’t matter one iota, for Singer packs more than enough charm to compensate for its predictability. Much of the credit goes to the lead actors. Sandler absorbs a lot of abuse from his detractors, and I can see their complaints, as he does turn out more crap than I’d like.
Nonetheless, I think Sandler’s critics turn a blind eye to his strong points. He maintains a likable goofball tone in his better work and can find enough witty absurdity in his material to generate laughs. That's why I liked Billy Madison so much. Sure, it involved a fair number of cheap gags, but it twisted them to be more than just the standard gross-out nonsense you find it lesser comedies.
Singer strays from that formula. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another Sandler comedy that so strongly keeps him away from his bread and butter. Even the winning 50 First Dates - Sandler’s 2004 reunion with Barrymore – threw out more than a few perverse bits. Singer more closely follows a standard romantic comedy route that keeps those elements to a minimum.
That means the wacky bits flavor the film but it doesn’t rely on them. Again, Singer works because Sandler and Barrymore show such terrific chemistry. One can’t help but wish they’d act together more often, as one flick per decade doesn’t seem like enough. They connect wonderfully and complement each other. There’s a real gentle charm on display with both of them.
Honestly, that’s more than enough to pull the movie through its otherwise inevitable course. We know where the story will go, but we invest so heavily into the lead characters that we don’t mind this fact. Sandler and Barrymore don’t play the roles like they’re shopworn personalities in predictable situations. They bring freshness to every scene.
The Eighties setting also adds a little nostalgic charm, at least to those of us who grew up in that era. There’s absolutely no compelling reason for the movie to take place 13 years earlier than its creation date; nothing about it latches onto the Eighties in a logical, necessary way. However, the period setting certainly doesn’t hurt, and it allows the movie to have fun with the mid-Eighties trends and styles.
Throw in a few fun cameos and The Wedding Singer ends up as a winner. It’s a perfect date movie, as it includes just enough rowdy humor for the guys and more than enough romance for the ladies. From start to finish, it charms.
Note that this Blu-ray includes an extended, unrated cut of Singer. The new version runs about three minutes longer than the theatrical cut. I’d love to indicate the differences, but since I’ve not seen the original version since 1998, I can’t. I will say that there’s nothing terribly provocative here; the unrated cut doesn’t add nudity or anything naughty.