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50 FIRST DATES

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Rob Schneider, Sean Astin, Blake Clark, Dan Aykroyd
Director:  Peter Segal
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio:  Columbia Tri Star
Features:  See Review
Length:  99 Minutes
Release Date:  June 15, 2004

“Could I have one last first kiss?”

Film ***

I went into 50 First Dates expecting another lowbrow, crude, below the belt typical Adam Sandler comedy.  I wasn’t expecting to be moved close to tears.  I feel almost like Adam sucker-punched me a little bit, but that’s okay…I forgive him.

Although there are big laughs to be had, and even a touch or two of the old Adam Sandler his fans have come to know and love, the surprise is what a big heart and how truly romantic this movie is.  He proved he had incredible chemistry with Drew Barrymore in the under-appreciated The Wedding Singer.  Here, the two terrific stars elevate their combined charm and spirit to the next level.

It’s kind of like Memento meets Groundhog Day.  Sandler plays Henry Roth, a marine biologist in Hawaii who has a real problem with commitment.  Not that it matters…with so many vacationers coming through the island every day, he can have all the brief flings he wants and make up whatever story he chooses to tell in order to do it.  These women will all be going back to their lives in a week or so, so no harm done, right?

Then one morning he sees Lucy Whitmore (Barrymore) in a restaurant, making a little house with her waffles.  He finally gets up the courage to forgo his rule against dating women who live on the island and talks to her.  They hit it off right away, and she invites him back for breakfast the next morning.  But when he returns, he freaks her out…she has no idea who he is!

Turns out, poor Lucy has suffered short-term memory loss since a car accident nearly a year ago.  As explained by her doctor (Aykroyd), when she sleeps, her brain can’t convert her short term memories into long term ones…thus every day she starts with a blank slate.  She doesn’t know how much time has passed, and her loving father (Clark) and steroid-fried brother (Astin) dutifully attend her, so she remains unaware of her condition.

Does that make Lucy the perfect girl for a guy like Henry?  It might have…except Henry really begins to fall in love with her.  Though her family at first is dubious and wants Henry to stay away, they soon begin to realize he has a positive effect on her, whether she remembers him or not.  Instead of a one night stand over and over again, it becomes a daily challenge for Henry to keep winning her heart.

He even comes up with a way for Lucy to re-catch up with her life every morning, but soon Lucy begins to worry that her condition is keeping Henry from living the life he needs.  When she decides to break up and just let him disappear from her memory for good, it’s a touching scene…I’d dare say heartbreaking.  Can there possibly be a happy ending in the cards?  One guess.

Sandler is a guy who built a career out of playing characters always about to snap, but he’s capable of showing an appealing sweet side, too.  Considering the two movies he’s made with her, I’d have to wager that Drew Barrymore brings that side out in him.  They make for a winning and attractive screen couple, and they work well together both in drama and comedy.  Their believability is what grounds an otherwise utterly fantastic premise and makes it worth our emotional investment.

Two supporting players merit mention:  Rob Schneider plays a burned out diver who makes oddball remarks about everything (“Sharks are like dogs, man…they only bite you if you touch their private parts”), and Sean Astin as the lisping bodybuilder brother who seems…um, just a tad loopy from the steroid ingestion.

The scenarios in this movie are real and touching, and sweet without being cynical.  Of course, there are decidedly Sandler-esque touches as well.  The sick walrus near the beginning has to be one of his most outrageous gags ever…and there’s a definite double meaning to the word ‘gag’.

50 First Dates is a near perfect romantic comedy because it’s just as romantic as it is comic.  It’s one you’re not likely to forget.

BONUS TRIVIA:  Look for a very quick cameo by TV star Kevin James in the early going!

Video ****

This is a superb anamorphic offering from Columbia Tri Star.  The Hawaiian settings are beautiful enough to begin with, but this transfer captures every lush detail and color of the islands with no distortions, compression or undue grain.  Absolutely gorgeous to look at.

Audio ***

The 5.1 audio is quite good, too, with a soundtrack made lively by lots of good remakes of classic 80s tunes (“Drive”, “Lovesong”, “Hold Me Now”, etc.).  The dynamic range is quite lively and dialogue is clear throughout.  Surround usage is minimal owing to the nature of the film but tasteful and effective when employed.

Features ***1/2

The disc starts with a commentary with director Peter Segal and Drew Barrymore…a pleasant and funny listen; too bad Adam couldn’t make it.  There are five deleted scenes with optional Segal commentary, an amusing gag reel, three music videos, a making-of featurette, a Comedy Central special on the film, a featurette on speaking Pidgin, as well as filmographies and previews.

Summary:

Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore make on-screen magic together.  50 First Dates will go for both your heart and your funny bone at the same time, and it will find both.  Recommended.