I've never been a big fan of "Saturday Night Live" alumnus Adam Sandler, with his cheeky smugness and roles built around juvenile humor-- which is why I found "The Wedding Singer" so surprising. Sandler still has some of the trademark cheeky smugness, but it has been toned down in what is his most mature role, a significant improvement over his outings in "Happy Gilmore" and "Billy Madison". I'm not saying that it's perfect, but it had enough magic to make it a very rewarding movie-going experience.
It's 1985, and Robby Hart (Sandler) is a wannabe rock star that has settled for providing musical entertainment at wedding receptions. He is a hopeless romantic who can say the right things to salvage any situation, such as a wedding reception that suddenly takes an ugly turn when the drunk best man (scene-stealing Steve Buscemi, last seen in "Con Air") grabs hold of the microphone and starts ragging on his whole family. Unfortunately, he is stood up at his own wedding when his high school sweetheart Linda (Angela Featherstone), suddenly gets cold feet with the realization that she's marrying 'a wedding singer'. Devastated by the rejection, Robby sinks into a deep depression and stops singing at weddings altogether.
Enter the breath of fresh air, the lovely Julia (Drew Barrymore of "Scream" and "Everyone Says I Love You"), who waitresses at the banquet hall where Robby sings. She is engaged to Glenn (Matthew Glave), a fabulously-wealthy junk (sorry, I mean high-yield) bond dealer with a penchant for dressing like Don Johnson in his "Miami Vice" days. The two become fast friends when Robby helps Julia to plan her wedding, something that Glenn seems to have no interest in. Following the emotional beats of your typical romantic comedy, a mutual attraction develops between them. But before this unrequited love can be realized, both Robby and Julia must overcome their respective challenges: Robby, living in his sister's basement and barely getting by on what he makes, feels that he has nothing to offer any marriage prospects, especially when surrounded by the material excesses of the Eighties. And like the investment decisions made by her bond-trading boyfriend, Julia must choose between the dichotomy presented by relationships-- going for growth, a strategy that is certainly riskier but with the potential for higher rates of return, or merely settling for the benefits of security.
The romance in this romantic-comedy is developed nicely, hitting the right notes and ending with a great pay-off in the film's climax which has Robby chasing after Julia to declare his undying love, helped by Billy Idol (play himself!). And despite a couple of awkwardly-conceived scenes, both Barrymore and Sandler click together surprisingly well as love interests. On the other hand, the comedy aspect is uneven, with some truly hilarious moments (such as Robby singing a song that he wrote for Linda, half of it before the break-up and the other half after), some less-hilarious but memorable ones (Ellen Dow, who plays Robby's grandmother, belting out "Rapper's Delight", and John Lovitz in a cameo as a really bad wedding singer), as well as many forced and fizzled attempts at humor that focus primarily on the cultural faux pas' of the Eighties (how many times do we have to be reminded about what Michael Jackson wore back then?).
Overall, "The Wedding Singer" is a sentimental and sweet crowd-pleaser that captures the magic and warmth of falling in love. Though it may be predictable and retreads some familiar territory, there are enough hooks in the story to make it worth a look. A perfect date movie, and just in time for Valentine's Day.