Watching “The Wedding Singer” reminded me of this kid I knew in junior high.
His name was Howard, and he could make milk come out of his nose. Or perhaps I should say that he enjoyed making milk come out of his nose.
Anyone could do that little trick, of course, but only Howard was so desperate for attention that he was willing to look like a total moron to get it.
Adam Sandler, who plays the new film’s title role, is like that too. Unlike, say, Jim Carrey, who, though sometimes crude, is obviously gifted at physical comedy, Sandler bases his work on displaying as little actual talent as possible.
Everything he does - from acting to singing to songwriting - appears half-hearted and vaguely moronic, and this all looks deliberate. That he is willing to behave this way, in fact, is what seems to appeal to many of his fans, who probably see his fame as validating slackers and losers.
Early in the new film, Sandler’s wedding-singer character, Robbie Hart, becomes a loser in a big way when he’s left standing at the altar.
Not only are his marriage plans ruined, he’s so freaked about weddings in general that he can barely bring himself to perform at them. Coaxed to appear at one, he sings “Love Stinks” and gets into a brawl with the father of the bride.
The only bright spot in the life of this sad sack is Julia (Drew Barrymore), a waitress whom he meets at a wedding party when he is helping a kid who is throwing up. (It figures, somehow.) Later, Julia begs Robbie to advise her about the arrangements for her upcoming nuptials.
It turns out, of course, that Robbie loves Julia, who is marrying the wrong guy for the wrong reasons. Naturally, her real Mr. Right is our slack-jawed, mumbly-mouthed wedding-singer hero.
But will she realize it in time? Will anyone care?
“The Wedding Singer” was directed by Frank Coraci from a script by Tim Herlihy. Both are also involved with Sandler’s next film, “The Waterboy,” which is currently in production in Central Florida.
Never having been a fan of Sandler’s work on “Saturday Night Live,” I’ve managed to skip such major installments of his big-screen oeuvre as “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore.” I found the new romantic comedy to be marginally less moronic than I had feared, but I also found it to be about 10 times sappier.
Although the movie isn’t badly paced, it seems to move slowly because of the plot’s crushing inevitability and the tired, repetitious jokes. Whenever the filmmakers are in doubt, they cut to a shot of a sexually ambiguous wedding singer named George (Alexis Arquette), as if that, in itself, were enough for a laugh.
The movie is set in 1985, but there is no particular reason for this other than to make the sort of jokes about the cultural signposts of the period (Michael Jackson, Madonna, etc.) that were made sooner and better in “Back to the Future Part II.”
Barrymore, as usual, is charming, but then “E.T.’s” old friend is used to playing scenes with inarticulate aliens. Steve Buscemi puts in a brief, entertaining appearance (as an ugly drunk) and so do Kevin Nealon (as an unsympathetic bank exec), Jon Lovitz (as an arrogant singer) and Billy Idol (as Billy Idol). As for Adam Sandler, well, as I say, a little of him goes a long way with me. At least he doesn’t make milk come out his nose.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “THE WEDDING SINGER” Location: Lyons, Spokane Valley Mall, Coeur d’Alene Cinemas Credits: Directed by Frank Coraci, starring Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Christine Taylor, Alexis Arquette, Matthew Glave, Allen Covert, Angela Featherstone, Jon Lovitz, Kevin Nealon Running time: 1:36 Rating: PG-13