Sandler’s Wedding Singer: formulaic, frenzied fun

Okay, here’s a little game: imagine any romantic comedy you’ve ever seen. Now replace Tom Hanks or Billy Crystal with Adam Sandler. That’s The Wedding Singer in a nutshell, a new romantic comedy also starring Sandler and Drew Barrymore, in which Sandler’s comic style, as previously seen in Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore, is the square peg that is hammered into the round hole of the romantic-comedy genre. Fortunately, it’s a fairly smooth match, and the movie is enjoyable, if not sophisticated. As a date movie, it’s probably impossible to beat right now: haven’t you seen Titanic enough times?

Adam Sandler plays Robby Hart, the best nuptial crooner around. He’s also on top of the world, just about to marry his longtime girlfriend Linda. Meanwhile, Drew Barrymore plays Julia, a waitress at Robby’s banquet hall, and just about to marry her longtime boyfriend Glenn. Already, you can tell that for some reason or other Robby and Julia will fall in love, there will be complications, and eventually everything will work out happily ever after. No surprises here.

Robby is stood up at the altar, while Julia’s yuppie boyfriend doesn’t want to help with their wedding plans. Therefore, Robby must help Julia make wedding preparations, allowing them to spend time together, and so on. Of course Glenn turns out to be a jerk, thus allowing Julia and Robby to get together without hurting anyone’s feelings. Very nice and neat.

The movie doesn’t particularly want to offer anything terribly challenging to the actors, and that’s fine. Sandler and Barrymore are both charming and reasonably attractive, with some playful chemistry. Sandler’s comic persona sometimes gets in the way of his supposed relationship with Julia, but most of the time he does a good job in his portrayal of a sweet, lonely guy. Drew Barrymore does a fine job as well playing Julia. Most importantly, they look like they’re having fun making this movie.

The romantic aspects of The Wedding Singer are effective, but only in a bare-bones kind of way. The movie works best in the scenes of pure comedy, where Sandler and his co-writer, Tim Herlihy, are able to do the same kinds of things they did in Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore. In all three, the jokes are often silly or sophomoric, but usually pretty funny in a maniacal, surreal kind of way. The humor of The Wedding Singer is muted in contrast to those earlier movies; Sandler’s characters in those were either too sophomoric or too angry to fit into a normal romantic comedy. In this movie, nothing gets quite as raucous or crazy as in the earlier pictures.

All the same, things are pretty funny. I particularly liked the movie’s constant, self-conscious references to the fact that it’s set in 1985 (and for no particular reason, except that it gives them an excuse for a continuous ’80s soundtrack). There are plenty of jokes involving old and/or funny-looking people (if you like that kind of thing), which seems to be a Sandler trademark. There is also a cameo at the end of the movie that is brilliant in its absurdity.

All the same, even if the movie is funny, the plot is thin and forgettable. Anyone who has ever seen more than one romantic comedy could probably write a more complicated scenario than The Wedding Singer. All the elements are in place: both main characters have a single best friend, who gives them advice and serves as a listening post. Each main character realizes that they’re no longer in love with their respective fiancees. There are the standard misunderstandings and obstacles on the road to married bliss, where the movie, of course, ends.

Even if the movie isn’t exactly original, it’s not stupid or boring for prolonged periods, and the jokes keep rolling along at a good clip. The movie clearly represents a desire on Adam Sandler’s part to branch out beyond mere comedy, and he does a decent enough job, managing to be both cuddly and frantically funny. While The Wedding Singer might not become a classic, it gets the job done with little fuss and some pretty good jokes. Just don’t expect too much.