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ISSUE
  Thursday
164
  February 12
2004
c o n t e n t s
 

The Reason for Hoobastank: Alternative Rockers Search for Meaning

 
 
 

This Saint No Roxy Music Album: Axson-Flynn's New Nude Look
 
 
 

 theReel
 
Sandler Isn’t Overly Obnoxious in ‘50 First Dates’
 
by Jeremy Mathews
 
“Hey, I remember you! You were in that movie about the guy who sang at weddings! Wow, that sucked. I’d blocked it from my memory until today.”  

“50 First Dates”
Columbia Pictures
Directed by Peter Segal
Written by George Wing
Produced by Jack Giarraputo, Steve Golin and Nancy Juvonen
Starring Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Rob Schneider, Sean Astin, Lusia Strus, Dan Aykroyd, Amy Hill, Allen Covert, Blake Clark, Maya Rudolph, Nephi Pomaikai Brown and Joe Nakashima
Rated PG-13

(out of four)

What a surprise to see Adam Sandler play a well-adjusted individual. In his new film, “50 First Dates,” the actor known mainly for angry, clunky gross-out comedies plays a real lead in a real romantic comedy. And while the film is unwieldy and contains a good bit of random, disgusting humor, it’s a sweet, somewhat unpredictable genre piece that plays with the affliction of short-term memory loss.

If not for his leading lady’s daily amnesia, Sandler’s role would be the standard one of the playboy who finally wants to settle down. The film opens with a montage of women from around the world describing the same great weekend in Hawaii with the same great local guy, Henry Roth. The only thing that’s different is the excuse he gives each woman to avoid contact after she leaves the island. With his latest conquest, he says that he’s a secret agent and then randomly jumps on a passing Jet Ski. He really works at a Sea World-like locale, providing care for the animals and his friend who’s prone to shark bites (Rob Schneider).

Henry’s lifestyle changes when he falls for a local named Lucy (Drew Barrymore) after they meet-cute at a diner when he assists her design of the waffle fort that she’s building for breakfast. He doesn’t want to meet her the next morning because he’s afraid of falling for a local and being tied down, yet can’t stop thinking about her. But when he sees her the next morning, she has no idea who he is.

It turns our that she was in an accident about a year ago and wakes up every morning convinced that it’s the day the accident occurred, her father’s birthday. This isn’t psychological, but the result of a damaged portion of her brain, so there’s no real hope to cure her.

Rather than disturb her every morning, her father (Blake Clark) and brother (Sean Astin) treat every day as if it’s her father’s birthday. In addition to watching “The Sixth Sense” every night, they use their stock of that day’s newspapers, re-wrap the presents and paint over the room that she paints pictures on.

The most surprising thing about the film is that there is indeed a limited dialogue about the various implications and possibilities of dating someone who will forget you the next day. The gimmick reveals itself to be a clever window into what establishes true love.

First-time screenwriter George Wing and hit-and-miss director Peter Segal try for a lot of laughs, and many, like one involving walrus vomit, don’t work. But other gags are genuinely clever and make up for it. When Lucy’s father doesn’t want him to see her, Henry has to find ways to get her attention, such as making himself look like a kidnapping victim.

Likewise, the supporting cast goes a bit overboard at times, perhaps to make up for Sandler not speaking as if he has a speech impediment, as he does in many of his other films. Astin’s lisping brother is a caring, muscular nitwit and can become annoying at times—especially with the lisp. Schneider’s turn as the uncouth co-worker isn’t as overdone, but his talk of living vicariously through Henry’s lifestyle becomes old after a while. The most adept acting comes from Dan Aykroyd as a doctor at the institute who helps Lucy deal with her memory loss…multiple times.

While it might have benefitted in my esteem by being the only Adam Sandler movie other than Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch-Drunk Love,” which is in a class of its own, that isn’t a complete waste of time, “50 First Dates” is sweet without being syrupy and has details like the location of Hawaii seen by locals, appropriate treatment of the medical condition and amusing jokes.

Plus, Sandler doesn’t play a sociopath with a speech impediment.
jeremy@red-mag.com

 
 
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