Most people go into Adam Sandler movies expecting the same thing: the film will provide a couple chuckles and familiar faces but ultimately prove unfulfilling and emotionally drained. This is the stigma that has resulted from Sandler’s yearly up-chuck of declining comedic talent. Unfortunately, he peaked incredibly early in his film career, after which very few of his films could muster the same amount of energy. 50 First Dates comes close to capturing the essence of Sandler’s heyday.
Sandler plays Henry Roth, a Hawaiian playboy who concocts various elaborate lies to seduce tourists. One day he meet Lucy, played by Drew Barrymore, and the two hit it off, causing Roth to stray from his player ways. But, uh-oh, Lucy has serious brain damage and can’t remember shit after 24 hours. Her brother and father, (Sean Astin and Blake Clark, respectively), relive Lucy’s last day of memories every day in order to keep her from going nuts.
In their second feature together after The Wedding Singer (1998), the chemistry between Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler is at it’s peak and the film really benefits from this. They play off each other well enough that we look past the fact that Barrymore is one step away from being a total vegetable. The chemistry they have make it seem as though their relationship could have actually happened without the whole memory loss shtick. It was a gamble to begin with for a rom-com to have such limits on the primary relationship, but writer George Wing pulls off somewhat of a miracle. Sandler’s relationship with Barrymore is one of his best, and helps us forgive him for his previous slam pieces.
|Oh dear lord, PLEASE STOP!|
The film also sports a Hawaiian backdrop well, and while it was probably only set there for Rob Schneider “jokes” (I put jokes in quotation marks because what he sees as humor, I see as verbal ipecac), the setting does add to the playfulness of the script.
The best part of the film comes from the soundtrack. It features 311, The Beach Boys, Bob Marley, and all things in the genre of Surf. The combination of the soundtrack, the script, and the Hawaiian setting creates a feeling of happiness and bliss that never dissipates. This synthesis is the reason 50 First Dates has such a strong fan base. People like to feel good, and they also like fat Hawaiian men playing the Ukelele.
Speaking of Rob Schneider, I wish Adam Sandler would have stopped putting him in his films. Actually, I’d be fine if Sandler kept Schneider in his bit part as the “You can do it!” guy with the indiscernible accent.
But Schneider’s character Ula is really just a Hawaiian stereotype with a glass eye. His character isn’t meant to have any emotional depth; he’s pure comedic relief. But here’s the thing about comedic relief, it doesn’t work if the actor isn’t funny. And it especially doesn’t work if the actor combines the sense of humor of Carrot Top and Gene Shalit, with the stupidity and racist nature of Carlos Mencia. In short, he blows, he’s the main reason this film isn’t considered one of Sandler’s classics, and I wish he would go away.
Ultimately, 50 First Dates is in the second tier of Sandler movies, behind classics like Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. It’s a good twist on the typical romantic comedy and it provides enough comic antics to keep the audience entertained. Sandler’s more recent movies have gone unappreciated due to their predictable nature and unoriginal plot lines. But 50 First Dates should go down as one of his better efforts. It’s an above average film, as far as rom-coms go, and will never fail to put you in a good mood.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever someone speaks any Hawaiian that you don’t understand
Take a Drink: whenever you see a Sandler movie veteran
Take a Shot: when Drew Barrymore cries like a wildebeest
Finish Your Drink: when you can’t stand Rob Schneider anymore