Getting nostalgic for the '80s? The badly-dressed age of Miami Vice, Rubik's Cubes and Frankie Goes To Hollywood? Or was that last year's kick? It's hard to think of a less seductive era, save for the Doris Day '50s, and The Wedding Singer plays like an unpromising mix of the worst of both decades. The trashy '80s stereotypes are only sprinkled lightly on the surface of the film, which takes its cues from '50s rom-coms and casts bad girl Drew Barrymore as the wholesome beauty.
All Julia (Barrymore) wants to do is get married, even if the lucky guy is clearly the wrong guy (yes, he's good in bed, but he doesn't restrict his antics to just hers). And then there's the right guy; the cute, friendly, Robbie (Adam Sandler), who's only too eager to help with her wedding preparations.
His assistance even goes as far as rehearsing a nuptial kiss; when their lips meet we almost expect to hear those wedding bells ringing. They are so obviously and unsophisticatedly perfect for each other: the obstacles are all external. But neither of them would imagine taking their lip-locking rehearsal any further, being as pure of heart as they are. Instead they allow a comedy of errors to rule their fate, forever knocking on wrong doors at the wrong time.
The Wedding Singer aims low, and tries to be both Meg-Ryan cute and Dumb-And-Dumber funny; the big surprise is that it works. Directed by Frank Coraci (Murdered Innocence) and written by Tim Herlihy (Happy Gilmore), it's no more than a loose sketch stretched into a movie.
But Sandler, a Saturday Night Live refugee like David Spade and Mike Myers, infuses it all with a ton of puppy-dog charm. Even with some ridiculous meat-ball jokes ("Well, we're living in a material world, and I'm a material girl. Or boy.") he manages to arm himself with a shy smile and comes out of it all unscathed.
Barrymore, looking more than ever like Grease's Sandra Dee, is convincingly sweet, and together the two spark some believable romantic chemistry. Alexis Arquette, as a secondhand Boy George, and Christine Taylor (The Brady Bunch), playing an imitation Material Girl, also have memorable moments.
And, as a special bonus, there are two uncredited guest performances - Jon Lovitz, another Saturday Night Live veteran, hijacks some plaudits as a rival wedding singer, while Steve Buscemi injects characteristic craziness as an unforgettable drunken wedding guest.
The best, however, is left for last. On its way to Las Vegas, the movie rises to a disarmingly cute, heart-warming, smile-inducing, beautifully-choreographed, old-fashioned finale, in which '80s icon Billy Idol pops up like a fairy godmother. It all adds up to the perfect night out: cringeworthy nostalgia, a granny singing Gangsta's Paradise, and the return of Billy Idol. Surely that's worth a look?
Puppy charm, retro-hip and some good old-fashioned romantic chemistry lift a traditional comedy to the brighter realms of a pleasant, quirky and genuinely touching slice of matinee entertainment. A fun-filled nostalgia trip.