Turning On the Charm in ‘Singer’
“The Wedding Singer” is a sparkling romantic comedy, the kind of picture that glides by so gracefully and unpretentiously that it’s only upon reflection that you realize how much skill, caring and good judgment had to have gone into its making. It’s light diversion, totally inconsequential in the greater scheme of things--and those are sometimes the hardest kinds of pictures to pull off.
In the title role, Adam Sandler plays Robbie Hart, who isn’t getting rich performing with his band at wedding receptions, but he’s good at his job. He sings from his heart, and he respects his audience. When we meet him, he’s at work, where he announces that in one week the tables will be turned: He’ll be getting married himself.
But there’s a hitch. At the moment of truth a week later his fiancee (Angela Featherstone) stands him up. A hard-looking type who dresses like a hooker, she later explains that she’d gotten past and present confused; she had fallen for the aspiring rock star in Spandex and silk shirt open to the waist that Robbie had once been, not “just a wedding singer.”
A romantic with integrity, Robbie is absolutely devastated, but he has struck up a friendship with a waitress, Julia (Drew Barrymore). The trouble is that Julia is already engaged to a Wall Street banker (Matthew Glave) she’s eager to marry. She seems to be the only person who doesn’t know that her banker boyfriend is an incorrigible playboy. Clearly, Robbie and Julia are made for each other. . . .
Director Frank Coraci and writer Tim Herlihy, who set their story in 1985, are deft at dealing with the whole question of marriage and how vulnerable people still are to pressure to marry, even if it’s to the wrong person. They also understand the pain of loneliness. In one scene, Robbie’s raffish pal Sammy (Allen Covert, a formidable scene-stealer) tries to comfort his friend by extolling the pleasures of being a nonstop playboy but winds up admitting, “All I want is someone to hold me and tell me everything’s all right.”
Everything is more than all right with “The Wedding Singer.” Coraci certainly knows how to get Sandler and Barrymore to turn on the charm full force and with absolute conviction. Robbie represents a drastic change of pace for the usually abrasive Sandler, who emerges as a surprisingly appealing romantic lead.
Sandler and Barrymore are in turn surrounded by some amusing, distinctive types. Alexis Arquette is hilarious and touching as Robbie’s band’s answer to Boy George, and Steve Buscemi and Jon Lovitz turn up in wonderful unbilled cameos--Buscemi as the drunken, ne’er-do-well brother of a bridegroom and Lovitz as a would-be wedding singer. (Billy Idol, a symbol of the ‘80s if there ever was one, turns up as himself.) Ellen Albertini Low plays a zesty old lady who takes singing lessons from Robbie--and they pay off.
Set in either Ridgefield, Conn., or Ridgefield, N.J.--we never know which for sure--”The Wedding Singer” was resourcefully filmed in and around Los Angeles. It’s a good-looking, period-sensitive, well-designed picture (though one sequence is marred by a mike boom constantly dipping into the frame) that actually sends you home happy.
* MPAA rating: PG-13, for sex-related material and language. Times guidelines: The film’s references to sex and its language are realistic, not exploitative.
‘The Wedding Singer’
Adam Sandler: Robbie
Drew Barrymore: Julia
Allen Covert: Sammy
Matthew Glave: Glenn
A New Line Cinema presentation. Director Frank Coraci. Producers Robert Simonds and Jack Giarraputo. Executive producers Brad Grey, Sandy Wernick. Screenplay by Tim Herlihy. Cinematographer Tim Suhrstedt. Editor Tom Lewis. Costumes Mona May. Music Teddy Castellucci. Musical supervisor Michael Dilbeck. Production designer Perry Andelin Blake. Art director Alan Au. Set decorator Lisa Deutsch. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.
* In general release throughout Southern California.
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