The Wedding Singer

* 1/2*

Adam Sandler turns up the charm in his latest romantic comedy, The Wedding Singer. Unfortunately, that also has the effect of softening his edge. He's nowhere near his peak of Happy Gilmore, not that it was much of one. He's certainly not helped here by a rather frail plot.

The year is 1985, letting the whole film obsess with 80s nostalgia. Adam Sandler is nice guy Robbie, the titular wedding singer, who entertains at the local reception hall by belting out his interpretations of classic 80s hits.

Robbie's life is thrown into turmoil when his fiancee, Linda (Angela Featherstone), leaves him at the altar. However, things are looking up when he meets Julia (Drew Barrymore), a waitress at the hall. She's the perfect woman, but for one small flaw: she's engaged to be married to a slick junk bond king, Glenn (Matthew Glave).

So, most of the film deals with the slow realization by Robbie that he and Julia are in love, and his attempts to stop the wedding. As far as plots go, it's a pretty thin and tired one.

To fill the gaps, The Wedding Singer delivers heaping spoonfuls of 1980s nostalgia. From Boy George to Michael Jackson, from Miami Vice to Dallas, from the first CDs to the last Rubik's Cubes, this film revels in all the minutiae. And then there's the music... Learning a lesson from the successful soundtracks to Grosse Pointe Blank, and Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, this film packs more 80s songs in the film than the running time will allow. As a result, most songs get maybe a lyric or a half, but you can almost see the bright gleam in the record executives' eyes: The Wedding Singer Vols. 2, 3, and 4!

While the nonstop 80s riffs get incredibly tiring, at least they distract you from the plot. At least last year's My Best Friend's Wedding stirred up the standard "keep your true love from marrying someone else" plot by making the rival a nice person. Here, Glenn is such a lowly rat of a man that you never see what Julia saw in him.

Barrymore, on the other hand, is simply charming as Julia. Which leaves us with Adam Sandler. He's at his best in the film when his nice guy persona fades a little (such as when he has a breakdown on stage during a wedding reception). When he's in full nice-guy mode, he's more pathetic than endearing.

The film boasts several cameos (most notably by Steve Buscemi and Jon Lovitz). But none of them work well at all. Buscemi's role as a drunken best man simply fails to be humorous. Lovitz, on the other hand, as a rival wedding singer, makes you long for his good old days on Saturday Night Live, where he was actually funny. The only cameo which has some appeal is a guest appearance by a classic 80s rocker during the film's finale (surprisingly, one of the only plot-related scenes which actually works.)

Adam Sandler still has some work to do before he can become a dependable leading man. While he attempts to change his image in The Wedding Singer, the end result is no net gain.

[PG-13 - sex-related material and language] (New Line)


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