Cauliflower doesn't really sound alarm bells for tastiness, but slather it in ranch dressing and it's a different story. Why do I tell you this? Not because I'm hinting around for a vegetable tray. Instead, I'm getting to my theory about why The Wedding Singer, a pleasant, if unremarkable romantic comedy, has maintained enough popularity since its 1998 theatrical release to warrant a new souped-up DVD and -- not coincidentally -- a Broadway musical of the same name.
It's all about The Wedding Singer's slathering of kitsch, specifically the kitsch of the 1980s, that irrepressible decade of skinny ties, checkered Vans and Duran Duran. The movie's serviceable narrative is cauliflower, its primary function being to serve as a vessel for the delicious ranch dressing that is '80s nostalgia.
Now that I got that tortured analogy out of the way …
Set in New Jersey in 1985, the film stars Adam Sandler as Robbie Hart, a good-hearted guy who lives in his sister's basement and ekes out a living by singing at weddings and the occasional bar mitzvah. It's not the most glamorous job, but Robbie is happy enough, especially since he's about to get hitched to longtime sweetheart Linda (Angela Featherstone). But a picture-perfect wedding is not meant to be for our protagonist. Linda leaves the wedding singer literally standing at the altar, spurring Robbie into a deep depression.
But it's an Adam Sandler movie, which means Robbie's melancholy is interspersed with fits of barely contained rage. Sandler is hilarious and surprisingly affecting, particularly in a bitterly funny rendition of Madonna's "Holiday" that he's forced to croon at a wedding reception shortly after he has been jilted. Robbie's best friend, womanizing limousine driver Sammy (Allen Covert), does his best to snap his buddy out of his funk, but to no avail.
All is not lost. Drew Barrymore does another variation on her America's Sweetheart persona as Julia Sullivan, a waitress for a catering company that also works a lot of weddings. She and Robbie develop a quick friendship in his post-Linda blues. If only Julia weren't engaged to jerky Wall Street broker Glenn (Matthew Glave), a Don Johnson-wannabe with a penchant for cheating.
What puts The Wedding Singer several notches ahead of many rom-coms is its almost relentless indulgence in 1980s nostalgia. As you would expect, Robbie's wedding-reception repertoire features songs from the Reagan era, and the soundtrack is equally perky, featuring the likes of Elvis Costello, the Smiths, the Psychedelic Furs, the B-52's and -- lest you think the 1980s was all peaches 'n cream -- Hall & Oates.
The trip down memory lane extends past the music. The soundtrack is matched by the film's visual scheme, a palette of robust blues, pinks and yellows that hearkens back to John Hughes flicks and early MTV videos. Director Frank Coraci and screenwriter Tim Herlihy don't scrimp on other cultural artifacts of the period, mining everything from Rubik's Cube to the fashion sense of
Thriller-era Michael Jackson.
You get the idea: We're in the 1980s, see, and you had better not forget it. Heck, even Billy Idol shows up to play himself, a rather pathetic cameo considering Mr. Rebel Yell's craggy face reveals a guy well past his '80s heyday. As a sucker for cinematic nostalgia and one who spent his college years in the '80s, I will concede that such stuff can be effective. Still, the trappings of that time feel foisted upon The Wedding Singer, none of it being even remotely intrinsic to the plot. Ultimately, the '80s celebration feels too calculated.
In the Sandler oeuvre, The Wedding Singer was the first indication that the Saturday Night Live alumnus was also interested in making non-idiotic comedies. That isn't to say this movie doesn't have its share of Sandler irritants; There is the obligatory running joke about a gay singer (Alexis Arquette) who can only perform Culture Club songs, and the filmmakers get maximum mileage from a nice old woman (Ellen Albertini Dow) who enjoys candid talk about penises.
Nevertheless, the movie's heart and generally sweet nature help make up for its shortcomings. There is palpable chemistry between Sandler and Barrymore, so much so that the two would later revisit it for 2004's 50 First Dates. And the cast is uniformly solid, with Covert, Glave and Christine Taylor (as Julia's promiscuous friend, Holly) shining in their supporting roles.
Its 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is top-notch, and it showcases Tim Suhrstedt's fine cinematography. The colors are vibrant; aside from a hint of graininess in a night scene or two, the picture quality is generally flawless.
The Wedding Singer - Totally Awesome Edition offers audio in 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, DTS Surround and 2.0 Stereo. The 5.1 Dolby and DTS are excellent and provide creative use of sound separation. All audio tracks are crisp and clear, and more than suitable to enjoy the synthesizer-laden tunes of the time. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
Let's not kid ourselves about why The Wedding Singer has suddenly earned a re-release. The movie is the latest Hollywood creation to be transformed into a Broadway musical, and so it's only fitting that, in the spirit of cross-promotion, the DVD includes a 10-minute short entitled A Backstage Look at the Wedding Singer on Broadway. A largely self-congratulatory promotion for the musical, the video features interviews with film screenwriter Herlihy, Broadway director John Rando, choreographer Rob Ashford and stage star Stephen Lynch.
The '80s Mix Tapes allows the viewer to jump to any song in the movie, with the help of some clever graphics that conjure up homemade mix tapes on audiocassettes. The graphics give you a bit of information about each track, including performer, year released, its highest chart ranking and a factoid or two about the musician.
Sneak Peeks include trailers to Wedding Crashers, Monster-in-Law, Dumb and Dumber Unrated, How to Lose Your Lover and National Lampoon's Adam & Eve.
Fans of The Wedding Singer would be well-advised to check out this handsome transfer. The DVD evidently has five minutes of additional footage, but damned if I could identify what was added from the initial cut. While Sandler and Barrymore aren't exactly Tracy and Hepburn, they are plausible lovebirds, and their likeability helps smooth over some limp moments.