50 First Dates

March 1st, 2003 Film, Film Reviews, Filmink

Adam Sandler keeps on trying to mesh his old ways with his new, self-styled leading man persona. Does it work? Partly, but it’s hard to excuse the occasionally shoddy scriptwriting that seems to follow him wherever he goes.

A reunion of more than just Sandler and Drew Barrymore, they’ve both thrown their production companies (Happy Madison productions and Flower Films respectively) behind their second romantic comedy feature together after The Wedding Singer.

It’s hard for Sandler to let go of his past shtick — he occasionally breaks into his signature enraged scream no matter how soft a character he plays (and it’s always either funny obnoxious clown or soft-spoken, goofy but lovable guy) so we don’t mistake him for Rudolph Valentino or one of the other luminaries of romantic movies.

Because 50 First Dates is unquestionably another foray into the ‘love story with a heart laced with comedy’ for Sandler and Anger Management director Segal.

It tells the story of confirmed Hawaii bachelor and zoo veterinarian Henry (Sandler) who falls for the beautiful Lucy (Barrymore) across a breakfast cafe. Putting the moves on her pays off and they spend a wonderful day together, planning to meet again for breakfast the next morning. When he gets there, she hasn’t a clue who he is.

Lucy has a very Farrelly brothers condition (ie one that produces a lot of laughs without poking fun at the disabled). After a car accident robbed her of her short term memory, she wakes up every morning thinking it’s the same day again, proceeding to do the same things with no memory of what she did the day before; giving her father a birthday present, making him the same cake and painting his workshop for him (to be repainted after she goes to bed for her to do again the next day).

For Henry, falling in love with her is easy. Staying in love with her is harder, and — mostly against her worried fathers’ and brothers’ intuition — he tries to break the news of what happened to her gently. The catch, of course, is that he must do it every single day.

At that point a niggling memory will click. A hero doing the same thing every day to make the love interest love him back starts to feel eerily like Groundhog Day.

The arc of the characters and story all travel in the expected direction, but one plus for the movie is that Lucy’s condition is in part treated seriously — if it had been a single 90 minute joke about a girl with short term memory loss, it’d be an older style (ie tasteless) Adam Sandler comedy. And along with the serious side is a very effective funny side.

The comedy comes thick and fast with varying degrees of quality and surprise. One of the problems with it however is that the ever-present comic sidekick is shared by no less than three supporting parts; Henry’s androgynous and sleazy Eastern European work colleague, Sean Astin as Lucy’s bimboy, steroid-pumping brother Doug and Rob Schneider well-camouflaged as his crass native Hawaiian friend Ula.

Barrymore’s oh-so-cute overbite is used to great (and widespread) effect, and scenes of sunsets, romantic kisses and occasional heartache save 50 First Dates from being a stupid ex-Saturday Night Live graduate comedy.

Speaking of which, where’s the Steve Buscemi cameo?

The Worth: $10

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