Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Wedding Singer (1998)

Holly: “Come on, there’s gotta be a little tongue.” Julia: “Well, maybe a little tongue. Not porno tongue. Church tongue.”

Title: The Wedding Singer
Genre: Romance Comedy
Year: 1998
Rated: PG-13

Adam Sandler as Robbie Hart
Drew Barrymore as Julia Sullivan
Matthew Glave as Glen Gulia
Christine Taylor as Holly Sullivan
After a wedding singer is left at the altar, he befriends an affianced waitress and unintentionally falls in love with her.
He’s gonna party like it’s 1985.
First Viewing:
6th Grade (a.k.a. 2000) on TNT or TBS. Added to The List: Always been there.

Comments As a movie romantic, I am thrilled to get to the first official romance comedy on my list. You’ll be surprised to learn that there’s only a few “official romance comedies” on the list. I think 5. We can debate about Shrek’s rom-com-ness if you’d like, but personally, I’d rather write about The Wedding Singer.

I first saw it in the 6th grade, smack dab in the middle of my “I only like and watch romantic movies or movies with strong romantic plotlines” phase. It’s a phase I’m thrilled to be out of, let me tell you. But while I was in it, clichés were all I ever needed.
The Wedding Singer is extremely simple, entirely cliché and absolutely predictable. There are no twists and turns that you don’t see coming. There are no characters you haven’t already met. Some of the dialogue can even be recited with a first time viewing. But none of that matters to me. I fucking love it and I know I’m not the only one. 

The story concerns Robbie Hart, a hopeless romantic, good guy, boy next door who left behind his rock ‘n’ roll aspirations to be a wedding singer. On the eve of his own wedding, he meets Julia Sullivan, a hopeless romantic, good girl, girl next door who’s been engaged to a stock broker for three years. On Robbie’s big day, his uber-skank fiancée Linda, leaves him at the altar. Robbie then falls into a deep depression, until Julia requests his help planning her wedding because it’s not her fiancée’s thing. You could guess that Robbie falls in love with Julia, but tries to deny his feelings because of her engagement to her fiancée Glen, Don Johnson’s number one fan. 

The Wedding Singer brings up many clichés, the most prevalent is that of the undeserving other man/woman. Both Glen and Linda are so materialistic, selfish, and asshole-ish/bitchy, that they’re easy to hate. We aren’t supposed to like them. We aren’t supposed to think Robbie should make up with Linda or that Julia should stop her emotional affair with Robbie. I half expected them to hook up in the end. 

Also, there’s Robbie and Julia’s best friends: Sammy, who models his life after Fonzie and Vinnie Barbarino, and Holly, the town tramp who models her life after Madonna. Both offer romantic advice and serve as foils for our leads. They actually do hook up in the end. 

This movie is set in the 80’s. Technically, 1985. But this date is fast and loose because many songs and references come before and after the aforementioned year. This doesn’t really bother me. It goes with the whole sloppiness of the movie. But as someone who cares deeply about costuming, I cannot forgive the clothes. For one, the costumer did a great job on Glen, Holly, and Sammy, plus many of the extra characters. But Robbie and Julia’s are straight from 1998. Nothing in Julia’s wardrobe slightly resembles anything from the 80’s or the early 90’s for that matter. I doubt this bothers anyone else but me and the few other costume fanatics out there. I mean come on, shoulder pads, big hair, and stretch pants. How hard is that? 

So far, it seems I’ve only ragged on The Wedding Singer's acute use of clichés and stock characters and its anachronistic costumes. Is there anything I like about this movie? Funny you should ask, because there is.

I really enjoy Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore’s performances in this movie. I like them both as actors anyway. Robbie and Julia aren’t the most complex characters but I don’t think they’re that card board cut-out either. Sure, they are both nice and easy to like. But there are subtleties in their performances that go beyond average rom-com characters.

Scenes that illustrate this:

1. While trying to find a singer for her own wedding, Robbie performs a song he wrote before and after Linda left him at the altar. The song is extremely sweet and then violent, which is played for laughs. But Julia’s reaction to the song is touching.

2. Robbie goes to tell Julia how he feels about her. As he walks up the street to her house, he practices his speech. He stops dead in his tracks and witnesses Julia happily laughing in her wedding gown. He watches her through the window for a moment and leaves. (Of course, she is pretending that she is at her and Robbie’s wedding, so this is all part of a Big Misunderstanding so often found in these kinds of movies).

3. The next morning, Julia realizes she must tell Robbie how she feels. But Linda, who’s changed her mind about Robbie (of course) answers the door in nothing but his Van Halen t-shirt (of course). Julia “understands” that her place is with Glen.

One thing I HATE in romance comedies, or any movie for that matter, is when a character chases another to the airport. This movie, unfortunately, has this plot device, but the whole climax takes place on the plane, so it can be forgiven.

I know a common theme in rom-com’s is opposites attracting. Or couples who playfully jab at each other in order to hide their true feelings. (Han and Leia anyone?) But Robbie and Julia get along. They’re friends. They have similar personalities. I think that their future, after the credits have rolled, will continue to be just as happy as it was in the end.
I don’t have any deep, soul-searching reason for putting The Wedding Singer on my list. It’s entertaining. It’s funny. Simple as that. I know that there are many others who agree with me. After all, it was made into a Broadway musical, an unsuccessful one, but that’s beside the point. The Wedding Singer is good for a laugh and those heart-warming moments only fiction can bring
Favorite Screencap
See the above screencap of Julia at Robbie's door. Don't judge me.
Next Film: The Great Mouse Detective

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