50 First Dates (2004) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for crude sexual humor and drug references
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Rob Schneider, Blake Clark, Sean Astin, Lusia Strus, Dan Aykroyd
Director: Peter Segal
Screenplay: George Wing
Review published February 19, 2004
The pigeonholing of Adam Sandler (The Waterboy, Big Daddy) into dumb, scatological comedies has once again denied him another coulda-been good movie that had the potential of taking him to the next level as an actor. Sadly, it is not to be, as the studio perception of audience expectations sees what could have been a light, touching romantic comedy marred by injections of crude humor and silly shenanigans simply to placate the juvenile-minded audiences that have made Sandler a success. While seen mostly as a young male favorite, Sandler managed to gain a female fan base by showing a rare romantic side in The Wedding Singer, and no doubt the makes of 50 First Dates are trying to capitalize on, especially when you consider the reuniting of Sandler with Singer costar, Barrymore (Charlies Angels, Ever After).
The pairing once again proves successful, and while Sandler's fans, who aren't particularly hard to please, will probably enjoy it, 50 First Dates fails to leave a lasting impression because of the forced attempts to inject humor at calculated intervals, taking away from the one element that actually does work well, the sweetness employed in the romance. However, it's not just the fact that the humor becomes a distraction during key moments when the romance is actually working well that makes Dates fail, it's the fact that these jokes aren't funny.
The plot of a man who has to start over every day trying to woo the woman of his dreams itself is basically just a reworked idea that the far more entertaining Groundhog Day employed so well. Here, Sandler plays Henry, a veterinarian and playboy, who takes care of animals by day while pursuing the vacationing ladies in their short term in Hawaii. His promiscuous life comes to an end when he meets a local named Lucy, with whom he hits it off with only to be saddened that she doesn't remember him the next day. In fact, she doesn't remember anything that happens from one day to the next, as a car accident caused brain damage that that virtually erases all of her memories when she wakes up in the morning. Everyone who loves Lucy tries to make sure that everyday is like the one she thinks it's supposed to be, but Henry begins to fall for her and is ready to do anything to try to get Lucy to remember him, and hopefully fall in love with him every day.
There seems to be a thought in Sandler's films that by repeating the same bad joke over and over, it becomes funny merely through repetition. There are walrus jokes, characters of questionable gender, a large Hawaiian who like to refer to Sandler as "peanut butter cups", Spam references, a man who can't remember things longer than 10 seconds, and Rob Schneider thrown in the mix to take the gags to lows -- just in case the teenage boy crowd might zone out at watching the weepy, smoochy scenes. Note to all future filmmakers: if you're going to constantly interrupt the momentum of a film every 30 seconds with a stupid sight gag, at the very least make sure that it isn't painful to endure. Who the hell thinks that Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings) is funny just because he lisps?!?
While I found certain parts of 50 First Dates to be affecting somehow, the fear of breaking out into something new ultimately makes this just another Sandler film attempting to appeal to girls. If you're a guy who loves anything Sandler, or are a girl that thinks Sandler can be endearing when he acts sweet and childish, you may not mind the cheesy gags and juvenile outlook. As Punch-Drunk Love showed, Sandler can be appealing even when he is in a serious role. Ironically, this film is only good when it isn't trying to be funny as well.
©2004 Vince Leo