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Review: Once more without feeling from 'Wedding Singer'

Scenes from the film February 18, 1998
Web posted at: 9:51 p.m. EST (0251 GMT)

From Reviewer Paul Tatara

(CNN) -- I'd like to do my part as a journalist to halt an oncoming pop cultural scourge before it spreads like a media-driven cancer. Consider the telltale lump to be Adam Sandler's new, not very good movie, "The Wedding Singer," Hollywood's first glaringly obvious attempt to bring to full fruition that hellish time-waster you've been expecting for the past two or three years now. That's right, I'm talking about '80s nostalgia.

DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN! SHOW SOME SELF-RESPECT! I'm turning 35 years old on the day I write this review, and even at that tender age I've already lived through '50s nostalgia and '70s nostalgia, not to mention two full trips around the mulberry bush with everybody from John Travolta to Aerosmith. Hell, Jack LaLanne even showed up a second time.

The film's attempt to scare up a comeback for Reagan-era mediocrity is so obvious because you can see right there on the screen that the filmmakers weren't all that concerned with anything outside of Adam Sandler getting to sing his cute songs, this time as a parlor trick that serves as the coathanger for a detailed marketing scheme.

Sandler stars as Robbie, a jovial, mid-'80s wedding singer who loves the very concept of marriage. At the beginning of the movie he thoughtfully unruffles the feathers of some wedding guests when the best man (Steve Buscemi) drunkenly gives a less-than-thoughtful toast to the bride and groom. Sandler announces to everyone that he, too, will be getting married in the next week, and that he just digs holy matrimony. He's sure the couple will be very happy. Clap-clap-clap.

As you almost certainly know by now, because of the movie's blitzkrieg-ish advertising campaign, Sandler's fiancee leaves him standing at the altar, but never fear. Drew Barrymore is waiting in the wings ... although there's the little problem of her impending marriage to a first-class, skirt-chasing jerk.

If you think that Barrymore will wind up marrying the jerk and Sandler will blow his brains out, you have a far more adventurous sense of storytelling than either screenwriter Tim Herlihy or director Frank Coraci. It is a genre picture, though, so I'll accept the obviousness.

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    What I don't accept is Coraci's complete lack of imagination in putting the film together. There are so many awkward lap dissolves between scenes you'd think it was the only option for splicing footage. If you're paying attention, you can tell that lots of film was shot, then it was lopped together to feature length, rather than the director meticulously planning the visual design to give the story some much-needed oomph. (For those of you who always want to think I'm expecting too much, that's one of the director's jobs.)

    I haven't seen a "big" film that was this poorly shot since "For Richer or Poorer," and, let me tell you, that's saying something. Besides, unlike other nostalgia-oriented films that paid off artistically ("American Graffiti" and "Dazed and Confused" spring to mind), the story could just as easily have taken place in any decade. It's a generic romantic comedy in outdated clothing, with references to J.R. and The Incredible Hulk thrown in to make it seem like there's actually something going on thematically. There isn't.

    The movie, which admittedly contains a few minor chuckles and Barrymore's cute performance (her haircut makes her look 12 years old again, but you know that's not the case when her character says she doesn't like to drink), is mostly an advertisement for what merchandisers and media moguls the world over hope will be the second wave of a headbanded, skinny-tied, "Der Kommisar"-humming purchasing frenzy.

    For those of you who are too young to really remember the '80s, please don't be tricked by "The Wedding Singer" into thinking that everybody was experiencing those lousy clothes and absolutely horrendous, horrific radio hits (which line the soundtrack like strands of chintzy jewelry) with a sense of irony. They were not. Generally speaking, people were, and are, not all that smart or tasteful, and the time has come for all of us to start anew.

    As I watched "The Wedding Singer," all I could think was that I was sitting there viewing the beginning of yet another recycled end. There, with the grace of God evidently on hold, went I, and we shouldn't have to do it again! Just for the novelty of it, I think we should go ahead and try to assert ourselves as the millennium approaches. Let's actually give the oncoming decade its own identity, just to see if we're still capable of it.

    Of course, that'll require inspiration.

    "The Wedding Singer"'s tone is excessively sweet, so thank God for little miracles. There's some bad language, but not much. Don't blame me if your skin crawls off and gets stuck on the theater floor during some of the more lamentable soundtrack selections. PG-13. 95 minutes.


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