Full Price if you like the 80’s, Matinee with Snacks no matter what
I can’t say enough early enough in this review to convince the dubious that this is a good movie. Number one, I really don’t like Adam Sandler (except the Hanukah song) and I really liked him, warmed to him, had sympathy for him, in this movie. Number two, if you thought the 80’s were fun, if you like retro 80’s night at your local dance club, if you own the albums Too Rye Aye (you know who you are!) or Friend or Foe, you will love this movie. If you enjoy jubilant pop music and senior citizens in love, if you have ever loved someone who was with the wrong person, if you have ever gotten dumped and had your faith in the entire human race obliterated, if you have ever had a best friend who was perfect for you and you had no idea at the time, then this movie will make you feel great. If you just broke up, you’ll feel better about the decision. If you just hooked up, you will feel better about the decision.
It’s a sweet little universal love story that just so happens to be set in 1985. As my friend said, “This must have been what the Big Chill was like for our parents.” And so it might have been. Except without Kevin Costner dead on the floor behind the couch, and with a less depressing soundtrack. Which, by the way, was totally sold out when we went there after the movie to buy it. So we rented Sixteen Candles as a basis of comparison, and we appreciated the reconstruction of the decade even more than while we were watching. For those who don’t know, Sixteen Candles came out in 1985 and was directed by the once-great John Hughes. He was, once, really in touch with stuff.
Six of us went to this movie on Valentine’s Day, six people in various stages of relationships, or not. Most of us tend to find Adam Sandler annoying as hell. (Name dropping note – my friend stage managed his concert and he’s a dick, too.) Sandler is as likable a schmo as ever graced the screen in quite a while. He’s actually the consummate 80’s teen romance flick nice guy who finally wins. The decade that birthed the sensitive guys OK to have crushes on, the years that brought us Ducky. The loser who wins the girl because he’s a better man than the hunky, wealthy, popular jock/businessman. He may not be John Cusack, Jon Cryer, or even Andrew McCarthy yet, but considering Sandler’s innate abrasiveness, pulling off this role convincingly puts his Robbie the Wedding Singer in the running to join the Brat Pack.
Drew Barrymore is another actor that some people love or hate, and this is her cute as a cherub phase, like in Boys on the Side, but not trashy. My only complaint is she is too 90’s earth child – her smooth, center parted flip do and semi-retro 60’s chiffon floral dresses look weird next to the layered shags and short on the sides, thin on the top mops. But she’s way too cute to really worry about it. Every other female is 80’s enough to make up for it. In the film, her Julia is engaged to Matthew Glaven, a perfectly 80’s smarmy villain type boyfriend – Miami Vice watchin’, Wall Street workin’, stubble-sportin’, dimply pastel insincere rat bastard – totally the Me Decade in a Delorean.
Julia’s best friend (Christine Taylor), a Madonna worshipping small town easy girl, is perfect MTV glam – she is as supremely 80’s s she was perfectly Marcia. Poor Christine will never get to play her decade! OK, sure, Rubik’s cube jokes are a tad outdated for 1985, but by and large the movie is dead on, period-wise. Unlike other recent period nostalgia comedies (Spirit of ’76, The Brady Bunch movies, Peggy Sue Got Married, Austin Powers), The Wedding Singer isn’t trying too hard to cram every reference the writers and art department could think of into each scene. No nudge-nudge wasn’t that funny? type shots of ridiculous artifacts – some of this stuff we still have in our closets (um, or on our knick knack shelves), and we have to squint to recognize the Charlie’s Angel lunchbox (properly aged – not everyone had ONLY brand new stuff in any year as movies want us to think) or the rosary bead necklaces.
The Wedding Singer is also very consistent with the music – they stick with pop radio New Wave, not bouncing between Night Ranger and Toto and Styx and Michael Jackson and Billy Ocean and Kajagoogoo just to make a point – it’s all the general feel of New Wave, in fashion and in music. Not all 1985, either, but I believe nothing that shouldn’t have been there. I don’t have to tell you it’s a wall to wall soundtrack, with the lyrics always matching the subtext of the scene. Not all of it is Sandler singing and not all of it is gratuitous hits like say Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion (a not very 80’s movie I must say!). And it’s not as white bread generic hits like Forrest Gump either – we are talking some truly classic songs. Shut up, I know it’s only been 13 years, but these are the songs that get people on the dance floor even now. The combination of people talking about music, singing music, and soundtrack songs makes it feel more natural somehow, like sitting around with your friends singing along with life.
The plot is almost perfect 80’s formula (with more 90’s pacing) with the romantic mishaps and the geeks inheriting the earth. Sure – you think, oh man I *had* that hat! But you also dated THAT guy right there! That makes it great. Some people say if you didn’t like the 80’s, you won’t like this movie, but the story is totally universal – it’s the kind, funny homage atmosphere that makes it fun, and the sweet story that makes you care. Only time can say if it becomes a classic like Pretty in Pink or Say Anything, but regardless, it’s a winsome love comedy even a dude could, like, totally jam to. AB – I thought of you!!!!
Oh, and Steve Buscemi is in it too!
Author’s 80’s nostalgia tips: For one of the best movies ever made in or about the 1980’s, rent Valley Girl (yes, with Nicholas Cage!) – it disappeared among truly vapid slop but even my dad likes it – it’s very sincere, with an extraordinary soundtrack, and a super duper star crossed lovers type of romance. It’s rad.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 2/13/98
Time in minutes 96
Director Frank Coraci
Studio Warner Brothers