Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Wedding Singer (1998)

Today finds me in a very dark mood. To quote a song from My Chemical Romance's album Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, "I'm not okay." Actually, that is putting it very lightly.

I suppose it is simply in an effort to cheer myself up that my mind has turned to one of my favourite comedy movies of the past ten years, The Wedding Singer. The movie centres on Robbie Hart (Adam Sandler), a singer who never made it in rock 'n' roll and instead became a "wedding singer." Robbie makes his living performing at weddings, bar mitzvahs, and so on. When his girlfriend Linda breaks up with him, Robbie thinks his world has ended. That is until he meets the waitress Julia (Drew Barrymore), whom he soon finds is his soul mate. Unfortunately, she is engaged to Glenn (Matthew Glave), a sleezy Wall Street shark.

Much of what sets The Wedding Singer apart from many romantic comedies is that it is set in the Eighties. And it captures the feeling of that era pretty well. Robbie could be called by some a "slacker," preferring to do what he loves rather getting "a real job." Glenn is the personification of the "Greed is good" philosophy of Wall Street in the Eighties. The ridiculous fashions and hairstyles are all there, from Glenn's Miami Vice look to Julia's friend Holly's efforts to emulate Madonna. The soundtrack is drawn from the music of the era (for both good and ill...), with songs ranging from "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" by The Police to "99 Luftballons" by Nena (remember that one?). In fact, the only complaint I have about the soundtrack is that it seems to me that any movie set in the Eighties needs "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell somewhere in there (in my opinion the Eighties song...not necessarily the best song of the era, but the one that brings it the most to my mind).

Indeed, in some ways The Wedding Singer works quite well as a commentary on the Eigties, particularly with regards to Robbie and Glenn. As I said earlier, some might call Robbie a slacker in that he chooses to do what he loves, even if he does not make much money at it. His rival Glenn makes much, much more money than Robbie does, enough to afford such luxuries as CD players (keep in mind this was the Eighties) and sports cars. But then Robbie is an integral part of his community, providing important services (singing at weddings and other celebrations and providing singing lessons), while Glenn is just another Wall Street shark with very dubious morals. I suppose the ultimate conclusion of The Wedding Singer is that it isn't how much money you make but how one treats other people and how one fits into his or her community that matters.

Of course, like any romantic comedy, The Wedding Singer is ultiimately about romance. Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore have remarkable chemistry onscreen. And given how much they have in common, it is easy to see why Robbie and Julia fall for each other. Robbie is not only a likeable fellow, but a sympathetic figure. One can easily empathise with Robbie when his girlfriend Linda dumps him, even if it is clear she is not worthy of him. And one can really sympathise when Robbie's efforts to win Julia from the villainous Glenn (who is not only greedy, but a womanising misogynist as well). Looking at the movie, I suppose that among the worst things that happen to a fellow is to know he is The One when the woman he loves is with someone else.

Of course, the test of any comedy is quite simply, "Is it funny?" The Wedding Singer passes that test with flying colours. Among the best bits comes right after Robbie has just broken up with Linda, when he sings "Love Stinks" at a wedding reception. Both funny and touching is Robbie and Julia's first kiss (easily one of the sexiest moments in the movie). And the climax itself is a hoot (who knew Billy Idol was a hopeless romantic....).

The Wedding Singer is funny, sweet, well written, and well performed. It works quite well as both a pastiche of the Eighties and as a romantic comedy. While many modern romantic comedies lay the romance on too thick or focus too much on the comedy, The Wedding Singer is a perfect balance of the two. It is definitely a film any fan of romantic comedy must see.

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