After 25 Years, Is The Wedding Singer Truly Worth Revising?

Comedy Features The Wedding Singer
After 25 Years, Is The Wedding Singer Truly Worth Revising?

Adam Sandler’s first foray into the romantic comedy, The Wedding Singer, turned 25 this past February, the day before Valentine’s Day. Once considered a great movie to take a date to in 1998, and at the tender age of 12, I knew just the person I wanted to see this rom-com with on opening weekend: my mother. Wait, let me explain.

My mom got pregnant her senior year of high school, and I came strolling out to John Parr’s “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion),” which was topping the charts in the fall of 1985, the same year The Wedding Singer was set. I felt connected to it by proximity, a sort of forced nostalgia for a time that I don’t remember but like quite a bit due to the decade’s excessive use of synthesizers and gated drums. I was dead set on seeing The Wedding Singer together as it takes place in the same year that her life changed forever and mine began. 

Maybe it was because they were young, but our parents were not concerned about what we consumed on the idiot box when we were kids. While this rarely ventured into extreme territories—though I do remember seeing bits (literally) of Flash Dance and all of Aliens at an early age—I was allowed to watch Saturday Night Live most weeks for several years. I remember lying on the living room carpet watching classic sketches with Sandler, Chris Farley, David Spade, and Phil Hartman. Mom even snuck me out of the house after my sister Aubrey went to bed to see a late screening of Wayne’s World. I definitely didn’t understand all of the jokes, but still, I loved to laugh when my parents were laughing. Seeing such talented weirdos be goofballs on-screen warped my young mind into who I am today: a mildly humorous fellow who writes sappy essays about comedy for fun. 

The Wedding Singer is not only the first time Sandler and Barrymore would appear on screen together, but the film also holds the distinction of being the first movie we took my youngest sister Malorie to in the theater. At the tender age of five months, I don’t expect her to remember my mom walking her to the back of the theater when she fussed in the middle of the film.

In his one-star review of the film, Roger Ebert wrote, “One of the sad byproducts of the dumbing-down of America is that we’re now forced to witness the goofy plots of the 1930s played sincerely, as if they were really deep.” And, my god, movies did make this country feel like it was getting Dumb and Dumber [insert rimshot here.] Sometime after seeing The Wedding Singer, I left behind the Sandlers, the Carreys, and the Myerses, those mid-to-late ‘90s lowbrow comedies the public would consume and quote ad nauseam. For years, I’d had enough of fart jokes and uncomfortable innuendo and felt I had grown so far above these types of comedies. I’ve since left that sort of pretension behind and have begun to revisit the movies that made me laugh as a kid.

While I did attempt to schedule a proper rewatch of The Wedding Singer with my mother and Malorie, a recent newlywed herself, before writing this essay, we’re busy adults, and I was on a tight deadline. Instead, I rented The Wedding Singer for four bucks on Amazon Prime and watched it with my lovely wife, Brittany, with whom I have been revisiting many cozy ‘90s comedies within the last year. Sitting through Wayne’s World provided insight into its influence on my sense of humor; The Coneheads was mainly bonkers, but would The Wedding Singer unlock any core memories beyond knowing what theater I saw it in? 

It turns out we were better off forgoing the rewatch experiment because The Wedding Singer is… fine? Mediocre at best. It’s charming in its way, though often described as “schmaltzy” in several reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Barrymore outshines her co-star Sandler, but they have great on-screen chemistry. I will say it holds up better than expected. The crude jokes that would have made me blush when I was 12 made me just as uncomfortable at 37. If anything, the movie’s atmosphere feels like 1980s-lite compared to how the decade presents in something like Stranger Things. The nostalgia isn’t as thick to wade through in The Wedding Singer. Even with Alexis Arquette’s Boy George analogue and Allen Covert in full Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” outfit, it’s somehow less in-your-face about it being 1985. 

However, the movie did not hold Brittany’s attention, as she headed to get ready for bed with about 25 minutes still left in the film.

“It’s over already?” she asked when she returned to the living room. The credits were rolling to the sweet sounds of The Presidents of the United States of America’s cover of “Video Killed the Radio Star.” 

“That’s the nice thing about these studio comedies. They’re rarely longer than 90 minutes, though you did miss Adam Sandler’s grand romantic gesture. He sang a song to Drew Barrymore on a plane, and Billy Idol was there for some reason.”

“Meh,” she replied.

Meh indeed.

Jack Probst is a writer and record collector from St. Louis. He appreciates the works of James Murphy, Wes Anderson and Super Mario. Send any and all complaints to @jackdprobst on Twitter. He enjoys writing paragraphs about himself in his spare time.

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