Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) lives in every man's paradise. Hawaii, home of the beautiful beaches, beach babes, and most importantly lots and lots of tourists. Henry is a self-proclaimed man of a thousand professions and he uses his persuasive nature and good looks to spend night after night with woman after woman, feeding them a number of lies about what he actually does. To some, he's a secret agent, to others he's a stock broker, but in reality he works at the local marine where he takes care of the walruses and other marine life. His best friend is Ula (Rob Schneider), a pathetic married man whose wife has given him a number of kids but has left him more than just a tad sexually frustrated. One day while escaping one of his many conquests, Henry ends up at a small cafe where he meets Lucy (Drew Barrymore), a beautiful woman who seems to share a number of his interests. After a wonderful morning together, the two split and Henry returns to his daily routine. After a golf ball knocks him out, he realizes that he must break his rule of only dating tourists and journeys back to the cafe the next day. He sees Lucy but she doesn't remember him. Unsure what to do, the cafe owner tells him that she lost her short term memory in a traumatic car accident one year earlier and lives out every day as if it was the day of the accident. Not one to let that stand in his way, Henry begins to imagine different circumstances for the two of them to meet and while some are successful others are not. Soon Lucy's father (Blake Clark) and juiced-up bodybuilder brother (Sean Astin) find out and try and get him to stop. Henry is determined to help Lucy remember and will stop at nothing to see that she lives a happy and complete life. Will the two end up together or are they forever stuck on going on 50 First Dates?
I'll be the first one to admit that at one point in my life Adam Sandler could do no wrong. However in recent years the opposite has been true. With the exception of Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch Drunk Love, every movie Sandler has starred in has either been completely painful to watch (Mr. Deeds) or dreadfully average (Little Nicky and Anger Management). I've longed for the days of Billy Madison or The Waterboy and wished that Sandler would one day re-team with Drew Barrymore to create another magical film like The Wedding Singer. So when I heard the two would once again be back on-screen together, I was both pleasantly surprised and a bit excited. Finally an Adam Sandler movie that just might be something more than an hour-and-change's entertainment. How did Dates stack up?
Remarkably well. Directed by Anger Management director Peter Segal and written by first-timer George Wing, 50 First Dates is a refreshing and cute little motion picture. It's not anything new and certainly is not as good as Drew and Adam's first on-screen effort The Wedding Singer, but for the most part at least is an enjoyable little romantic picture. Segal, who had Hollywood heavyweight Jack Nicholson in his last picture, continues to direct talent completely out of his league with Barrymore joining the cast. The premise is simple as is the execution, and there's never really any real surprises throughout the 100-minute running time. Sandler gets a chance to display his trademark characteristics, which include a number of dumb looks and include the standard stock Sandler scenes. Bathroom jokes and low brow humour are present, but nothing is too over-the-top, after all this is a romantic comedy. Most of the slapstick material involves Sandler's pal Rob Schneider or a number of the secondary characters, but Barrymore does get a chance to ham it up for the cameras in a few scenes, one of which can be seen in the film's trailer and TV spots. Characters are underwritten, but that's to be expected and there are plot holes as wide as the Pacific Ocean, but this is a comedy so it's not really all that important.
What can be said about Adam Sandler that hasn't been said before. The guy is a talented comedian and has shown that given the right role in a drama he can be pretty damn rock solid there as well. Here he plays a slight variation on his usual character with relative ease. It's hard seeing Sandler as anyone other than himself on the big screen, but that's part of his charm. He doesn't do anything revolutionary here, nor do we as an audience want him to. Quite simply, he does what he does best and that entertains us. Drew Barrymore has been charming viewers since she was Gertie in Steven Spielberg's E.T.. Although she's had some rough personal demons to deal with, she has escaped unscathed and plays the charming romantic lead once again. Barrymore plays Lucy as a warm and caring individual who's been through some tough times. Equally adept at comedy and drama, Barrymore brings a warmth and bubbly carefree spirit to the screen. Sharing the screen with these two is a difficult task for anyone, but Sean Astin has had it much worse. Astin, best known from The Goonies and The Lord of the Rings movies appears in his first post-Rings role as the lisping steroid-induced bodybuilder brother. Astin is pure gold in this role. I couldn't wait to see what else he'd do. This is about as far from his last role as you could get and is a refreshing change of pace. Sandler's pal Rob Schneider is also rock solid as Ula, Henry's best friend and advisor. Words can't describe his performance. Rounding out the supporting cast are various members of Saturday Night Live and Sandler's usually buddies, including Alan Covert.
Another very cool aspect of the film is one I hardly ever have the space or time to mention in a review and that's the film's soundtrack. Consisting of reinterpretations of various classic love songs, this is a very cool musical accompaniment. Listen for "I Melt With You", "Every Breath You Take", and a cover of Spandau Ballet's "True". I cheated a bit and listened to the disc before the movie, but had I not I would have definitely been headed to the store after seeing the film. I'm a big fan of cover tunes and always enjoy listening to different people's takes on familiar songs. I can't remember the last soundtrack that I had so much fun with. Perhaps Not Another Teen Movie, which took the same approach to music as Dates.
50 First Dates is a fairly harmless and cute romantic comedy. Fans of Adam Sandler will enjoy the comedian's latest crazy antics, while those expecting a heartwarming and touching story won't be disappointed. It's nothing overly creative, but there's a lot worse ways to spend 100 minutes than 50 First Dates. Featuring some solid comedy from Sandler, Astin, and Schneider, and the always lovely Drew Barrymore, First 50 Dates is a valentine of a different sort. It's not overly romantic or sappy (but it has its moments) and it's something both the guy and the girl can enjoy. Nothing special, but not pain-inducing either, 50 First Dates is a step back in the right direction for Sandler after a couple of complete duds. Recommended.
Mark McLeod has always loved film. In addition to his roles with ShowbizMonkeys.com, Mark also works on many film promotion projects in Vancouver, BC, through his company, Mark McLeod PR.