WEDDING SINGER, THE - Blu-ray review

Although the movie is remarkably schmaltzy, it's sweet and affecting, too, with Sandler's character as genuinely nice as he can be.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.
Puccio

Note: In the following joint Blu-ray review both John and Erik give their opinions of the movie, with John also writing up the Video, Audio, Extras, and Parting Thoughts.

The Film According to John:
Like Erik (in his comments below), I am not a big Adam Sandler fan. I've found sitting through things like "Billy Madison," "Happy Gilmore," "The Waterboy," "Big Daddy," Little Nicky," and "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry" a chore. Yet there's no doubt the man can be charming and even talented when he tries, and 1998's "The Wedding Singer" proves the point. I don't think the five minutes of additional material in this unrated "Totally Awesome Edition" on Blu-ray improves the movie in any way, but for viewers who believe that more is always better, the extra few minutes and the improved picture and sound make for useful buying incentives.

Set in 1985 in order to take advantage of some instant nostalgia among its target twenty-something audience, "The Wedding Singer" stars Sandler as Robbie Hart, a pop singer reduced to eking out a living playing wedding receptions and bar mitzvahs in his small hometown. It's too bad the music of the eighties was so insipid, but it does makes a useful counterpoint for the characters.

Robbie thinks he has it made, enjoying the gigs and getting married himself, when out of the blue his airheaded fiancée drops him at the altar, leaving him depressed not so much about the girl but about his not amounting to anything in life. Fortunately, it is also about this time that he meets a waitress, Julia Sullivan (Drew Barrymore), who is clearly perfect for him.

Yet this is a romantic comedy, and such movies all follow a rigid formula. The boy and girl must notice each other early on in the film and fall in love, but they must not know they're in love. Only the audience knows (or notices) they're in love. Then the couple must fight through a series of complications and misunderstandings until they find one another in the end. "The Wedding Singer" follows formula.

Julia is about to marry a humorless, no-class, womanizing lout, so that's the first obstacle in the path of true romance. Robbie starts to help Julia with her wedding arrangements, and, well, things escalate from there.

Although the movie is remarkably schmaltzy, to be sure, it's sweet and affecting, too, with Sandler's character as genuinely nice as he can be. Robbie likes people and wants to help everyone. More important, his character interacts well with Barrymore's character, the two actors getting on so well that you'd like to see them falling in love in real life. In other words, they do what all good actors try to achieve: They make their characters vivid, alive, believable, and, above all, sympathetic.

Then, too, the movie is not only romantic, it's funny. Robbie's little nephew in a Freddy Krueger costume made me laugh, and there are a number of other laugh-out-loud moments as well. Not only that, the movie reminded me why the hair, clothes, and colors of the seventies and eighties made those years a time to forget. I'm sure the filmmakers realize that just the sight of these things is funny nowadays.

Not that everything in "The Wedding Singer" works. The movie does tend to go on and on in the last half hour, reaching climax after climax before it concludes. And we do have to wonder if these people are as smart as they appear if they both initially want to marry such lunkheads. Why would they even like these other people?

But these are minor qualms in an otherwise fetching movie. Look, too, for uncredited appearances by Steve Buscemi (who practically steals the show) and Jon Lovitz, plus a small credited performance by Billy Idol. They help spice up an already pungent brew.

John's film rating: 7/10

The Film According to Erik:
I'm not a fan of Adam Sandler, nor do I dislike his sophomoric attempts at humor. To say the least, I'm impartial to most of his work. I was, however, a fan of his work in P.T. Anderson's "Punch Drunk Love." With this said, I was, to my own surprise, also a fan of "The Wedding Singer," an ode to the 1980's via a story that is often trite, convenient yet still manages to be stubbornly charming. Eight years after its first release in theatres, New Line Cinema brings us "The Wedding Singer: Totally Awesome Edition," which isn't nearly as awesome as the title claims to be.

The film follows Sandler as Robbie Hart, an aspiring musician, who dreams of being a songwriter and is soon to be married. He is a deep romantic, who has been looking forward to his wedding day since the third grade. However, when the big day finally arrives he is left standing at the alter. Robbie wallows in his self-pity through an ill mannered performance at a wedding that he is hired to sing at soon after his break up. All isn't lost, as is the case with every film of this genre; Robbie is befriended by Julia (Drew Barrymore), a young woman working as a server at many of the weddings and catered events that Robbie performs at. Soon after their first meeting, Robbie's break up, and unknown to either of them, they start falling for each other.

The film is written as a matter of convenience, everything has been seen before, countless times in any number of romantic comedies from the days of "It Happened One Night" to "The Apartment" and everything in between and beyond. The film doesn't rate alongside these classics but the formula upon which it is based is there. It's very familiar territory, which, despite its unoriginality, it treads rather well. The chemistry between Sandler and Barrymore is actually quite good. They display a friendly charm that works mostly due to their sincere approach with each other. Although Sandler isn't exactly most people's first choice for a romantic lead, director Frank Coraci is able to rein him in enough to play opposite the sweetly coy Barrymore. The leads bring about a nice sense of warmth to the movie that often comes across in an adorable fashion.

A big part of the film's appeal is the 80's setting. In the pop culture canon the 1980's have always felt like something of a guilty pleasure. Most of the 80's retrospective TV shows sprang on the heels of the success of "The Wedding Singer." Eighties jokes are rampant, from nods to Rubik's cube, to Freddy Krueger, the moon walk and so on. There are wall-to-wall eighties references that often come across forced in the storytelling, but the filmmakers clearly have a love for the era and it shows.

However, this "Totally Awesome Edition" actually takes away from the original releases charm. Five minutes of film are added, and while this might not seem like a large amount of material, most of it comes in the form of a scene right smack dab in the middle of the film and halts an otherwise decent flow. The scene involves a not so funny moment between Robbie and the elderly hip hop loving grandma, which is quickly followed by a dialogue between Robbie and Julia. This scene really just stops the movie dead in its tracks. While most of the jokes in the film work on some level, the humor here in this new scene falls flat and to top it all the moment between the two leads feels like it's REALLY beating the audience over the head. There was no reason to make this new cut of the film, because frankly, it actually makes the film less enjoyable.

Erik's film rating: 5/10

Video:
When Warner/New Line video engineers put their mind to it and do a high-bit-rate, VC-1 transfer on a dual-layer Blu-ray disc, they can achieve some impressive results. But when they use a single-layer BD25 as they do here, the results are pretty ordinary.

The video quality is soft and subdued throughout the whole film. It looks better than the standard-def version, but not by much. Colors are bright enough, mind you; they just look slightly veiled. It's the actual definition, the detailing, that comes across too mushy and bland. Fortunately, we get a really clean print, with a touch of natural film grain to add at least a little more life to the proceedings.

Audio:
The disc offers audio in either Dolby TrueHD 5.1 or regular Dolby Digital 5.1. In switching between the two, I immediately noticed a greater clarity in TrueHD, although for that part the main thing both formats have to do is reproduce pop music, which, given the sources, isn't all that demanding. Still, one will find good, crisp dynamics here, decent bass, and a modicum of surround activity, again during the musical numbers, which are practically nonstop. Other than that, the movie is mostly dialogue, which both soundtracks deliver smoothly.

Extras:
Squeezing the whole film onto a single BD layer must not have left much room for bonus items because this Blu-ray actually has fewer extras on it than the previous two standard-def editions. All we get is a ten-minute promotional featurette, "A Backstage Look at The Wedding Singer on Broadway," which celebrates the story going to the stage, and a theatrical trailer, both in standard definition. In addition, we get twenty-four scene selections, English as the only spoken language choice, Spanish subtitles, and English captions for the hearing impaired.

Parting Thoughts:
Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore worked so well together in "The Wedding Singer" that they reunited in 2004 for another romantic comedy, "50 First Dates." While it wasn't quite as funny or as touching as "The Wedding Singer," the movie still worked reasonably well, and romantic-comedy fans who haven't seen it might want to investigate further.

Meanwhile, "The Wedding Singer" on Blu-ray is an iffy proposition. If you like romantic comedies, if you have a Blu-ray player, and if you don't already have the movie in standard-def, then certainly you should consider "The Wedding Singer." I just wish the disc's video engineers had done a little more to spruce up the movie's already good image quality.

Ratings

Video
7
Audio
7
Extras
3
Film Value
6