February 20, 2004

Movie Review: '50 First Dates'

Let me put it this way—50 First Dates would be a great Blockbuster rental. This is not to slam the movie; it’s just to say that there are better movies to spend eight bucks on.

Given the amount of advertising Columbia Pictures has dumped into this film, its basic premise should be well known to most of us by now. Henry (Adam Sandler) has never met a woman he likes enough to go on a second date with; as a result, his life has been a string of one-night stands. Until, that is, he meets Lucy (Drew Barrymore). The two meet at a local diner, immediately hit it off, and make plans to see each other the next day. There’s one problem, however—Lucy has no short-term memory, having lost it in a car crash about a year ago; as a result, she wakes up each morning not remembering what happened the previous day, only remembering life before the accident. Thus, each day Henry is forced to again introduce himself to Lucy and again make her fall in love with him.

The movie’s premise is original and the story is well developed, refusing to fall into the typical Hollywood formulas. Not only that, but it has an important lesson for us. We so easily take our husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends for granted; after a while, it becomes so easy to stop trying to impress them, to stop treating them with the kindness and consideration that marked the early stages of our relationships. In many ways, our lives would be better if, like Henry, we couldn’t afford to take our lovers for granted, if we were forced to woo them each new day.

Sandler and Barrymore are both outstanding. Unlike some of his more sophomoric roles (e.g., The Water Boy), Sandler’s character is warm, charming, and genuinely likable. Unfortunately, the script doesn’t do justice to Barrymore’s character, refusing to develop her properly. Still, Barrymore plays her typical sweet, adorable self, and she and Sandler have excellent chemistry, providing us with a number of authentic, truly heart-warming scenes.

Most of the movie’s supporting cast are also excellent. We can’t help but love Blake Clark and Sean Astin, who play Lucy’s father and brother. Astin is especially lovable, playing a good-hearted yet annoyingly spastic steroid-addict.

Given the many strengths of the movie, it baffles me why director Peter Segal felt the need to pollute it with so many of the same crude, juvenile jokes that marked Sandler’s earlier films. For instance, why would he give a key supporting role to Rob Schneider (whose credits include such titles as Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo)? As should be expected, Schneider plays his usual armpit-noise-making, private-parts-scratching, perverted self; yes, some of his lines are funny, but most are crude and B-movie quality at best. Don’t get the wrong idea; I’m not the type of guy who finds no humor in the occasional off-colored joke. But this movie has too much beauty and intelligent humor to be contaminated with your run-of-the-mill fart jokes.

As I watched this movie, I couldn’t help but compare it to The Wedding Singer, another romantic-comedy starring Sandler and Barrymore. Unlike 50 First Dates, however, The Wedding Singer refuses to let locker-room humor take away from its adorable, touching love story. If you like romantic-comedies, 50 First Dates won’t be a waste of your time; but if you haven’t yet seen it, you’d be better off checking out The Wedding Singer.

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