50 First Dates opened this past Valentine’s Day weekend to no competition, and that should benefit its box office aspirations handily. Those who have seen the endless previews and Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore’s mugs on every show that network TV has to offer will no doubt be expecting another riotous Sandler goof-fest, which has become old in this reviewer’s mind.
Fortunately, the film does not deliver stupidity, although the first fifteen minutes would lead you to believe otherwise. Just minutes after the opening credits end we get a vomiting walrus. But if you stick with it, you’ll see that 50 First Dates falls somewhere between The Wedding Singer and Punch Drunk Love. And surprisingly enough, it works.
Adam Sandler stars as Henry Roth, a veterinarian living in Hawaii who specializes in getting vacationing women in the sack. His habits change, however, when he meets Lucy (Barrymore) in the local diner. They share a breakfast of waffle houses, and seem immediately in love. They agree to meet the next day for breakfast, but when Henry shows up, Lucy has no idea who he is. What’s the deal?
Lucy suffers from short term memory loss. She and her dad, Marlin (Clark), were in a car accident that resulted in her memory being scraped clean every twenty-four hours. Marlin and his son, Doug (Astin), go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that Lucy not know about her condition, for fear of what would happen if she found out.
Now Henry faces his biggest challenge: How does he get the girl of his dreams to fall in love with him anew everyday?
As far-fetched as the idea seems, it works. While I had a bit of a hard time believing that someone as shallow as Henry would all of the sudden drop everything in his life to help this girl fall in love with him again everyday, I found the film surprisingly winning. A lot of this is due to Sandler’s subdued performance. He is a notch up on the hyper scale from his Barry in Punch Drunk Love, but Sandler again exposes his sensitive side in a film. I consider this progress.
Drew Barrymore does more of the same, which is basically look at the camera and smile, but she pulls off memory loss very well. She even displays some very convincing dramatic acting when she is faced with her condition. A very nice surprise.
Even with all that, no Sandler movie is complete without the trademark weird characters. This time around we have Rob Schneider (who I swear must lose bets to wind up in parts like this) as Ula, Henry’s very high and almost unintelligible friend. He has his scenes, but becomes annoying after awhile. Sean Astin, however, is entertaining as Doug, a shrimp who thinks he is ripped.
When all is said and done 50 First Dates emerges as an endearing romantic comedy, with a nice balance of both. It’s not the kind of movie you lay awake at night thinking about, but as a soft and gentle romantic comedy, it’s definitely a notch above the rest.
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Length: 96 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 on appeal for crude sexual humor and drug references.
Theatrical Release: February 13, 2004
Directed by: Peter Segal
Written by: George Wing
Cast: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Sean Astin, Rob Schneider, Blake Clark, Dan Aykroyd