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On Feb. 13, 1998, New Line unveiled The Wedding Singer in theaters in time for Valentine’s Day audiences. The Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore rom-com went on to earn $123 million globally at the box office. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below.
We’ve all heard him, usually at weddings and bar mitzvahs where alcohol often blurs true appreciation of his talents. Song stylist extraordinaire, he has the uncanny ability to make virtually any song, even “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” sound like “Hot Hot Hot.”
Now, thanks to Adam Sandler, he has been finally given his due in The Wedding Singer, a (for the most part) winning romantic comedy that plays off the per former’s sweet, loopy personality. Despite a saggy middle stymied by sappy good intentions, the picture stands as Sandler’s best effort.
Demographically, expect some thing of a trade-off. While all the lovey-dovey stuff might turn off some of his partying young male fans, the romantic theme and Valentine’s weekend placement will win him a newly appreciative female contingent. Add a soundtrack bursting at the seams with blasts from the not-so-distant ’80s past, and The Wedding Singer seems certain to make sweet boxoffice music for New Line.
The year is 1985 and Sandler is Robbie Hart, a struggling singer-songwriter trying to make ends meet as a musician/emcee for hire. While “Star Search” will never come knocking on his door, he gets the job done; that is, until his own intended betrothed (Angela Featherstone) abandons him at the altar.
Bitter and morose, Robbie’s mood begins to affect his work, as evidenced by unforgettable renditions of Madonna’s “Holiday” and the J. Geils Band’s “Love Stinks,” not to mention his tirades against innocent wedding guests.
But his downward spiral is halted by the nurturing presence of the lovely Julia (Drew Barrymore), a klutzy waitress who works at many of Robbie’s functions. While Julia’s planning to marry the smarmy Glenn (Matthew Glave) — a thoroughly ’80s combination of Michael Milken and Sonny Crockett — we know better, even though it takes the leads the rest of the movie to get with the program. In his previous, more juvenile outings, Sandler has displayed an innocent sweetness that undercut all the sophomoric shenanigans. Here, he relies almost too much on that quality, at times sacrificing some necessary edge that the script doesn’t always provide.
As the virtuous-to-a-fault Julia, the always splendid Barrymore finds herself in a similar predicament, doing the best she can to give dimension to a character that has essentially been written as an ideal rather than as a full-fledged person.
Among the fine cast of supporting players, Alexis Arquette grabs some laughs as Sandler’s Boy George-wannabe bandmate, and Allen Covert and Christine Taylor score points as supportive best friends.
After a terrific start, the picture gets a little snagged in its perceptions of romantic-comedic conventions, going top-heavy on the former while seemingly all but forgetting about the latter. Fortunately, the screenplay (by frequent Sandler collaborator Tim Herlihy) returns to its amusingly offbeat senses in time for the big finale.
Director Frank Coraci, meanwhile, has a nice feel for the comic elements. He never forces them but keeps things moving briskly forward (middle excepted). The same crisp approach is taken by Tim Suhrstedt’s cinematography, while production designer Perry Andelin Blake (Leave It to Beaver) and costume designer Mona May (Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion) have a lot of fun with the period excesses.
Of course, the soundtrack is a character all its own, serving up not only the usual suspects (Police, Culture Club, the Cars) but also some guilty pleasures from the likes of Musical Youth (“Pass the Dutchie”), Nena (“99 Luftballons”) and After the Fire (“Der Kommissar”) that will make you forget junk bonds and Michael Jackson’s altered skin tone ever happened. — Michael Rechtshaffen, originally published Feb. 12, 1998.
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