Maybe in a decade or so, people will watch old Adam Sandler movies and look past the barf gags and grotesque character types, instead zeroing in on the star’s dopey amiability and the way his films often balance the gratification of arrested adolescence against the anxieties of adult emotions. Or maybe the slapstick gross-outs will be part of the appealthe way gratuitous nudity, shrill gynophobia and cheesy pop give '80s teen sex comedies an era-specific foundation.
Either way, future Sandler scholars will find a lot to work with in 50 First Dates, a surprisingly touching romantic comedy all but ruined early on by the obligatory outlandishness. Sandler plays Hawaii-based marine biologist Henry Roth, who gives up his womanizing when he meets Drew Barrymore’s Lucy Whitmore, a junior-high art teacher who, due to a traumatic automobile accident, loses her memories each time she goes to sleep. Every morning, Henry has to get Lucy to fall in love with him again, knowing that the progress he makes will be wiped out overnight.
This high-concept hash of Memento and Groundhog Day may sound kind of ridiculous, but the upshot of it is very much in keeping with Sandler’s usual immature ideals: Every day his character gets to relive the moment that he fell in love, without having to grapple with the inevitable slow fade of romance. 50 First Dates piles on the nostalgia/fantasy elements throughout, from the exotic resort setting to the laid-back reggae versions of '80s Europop that pack the soundtrack. There’s even a remarkable video montage of the events of 2003, which Henry makes for Lucy as a memory aid; it also serves as a concise reminder of how lowbrow moviemaking often documents our times better than prestigious “issue” dramas.
If only 50 First Dates hadn’t tried to squeeze in Billy Madison/Happy Gilmore-style pain and humiliation wherever possible, the movie might’ve been a thorough charmer. But as Henry learns that he needs to lay off the broad romantic stunts (which only work on Lucy intermittently), so 50 First Dates gradually sheds its juvenilia (Rob Schneider cameos aside) and becomes a remarkably uncompromising love story about a determined boy-man and a chronically sick woman.
The final half-hour of 50 First Dates gets increasingly, deliciously bittersweet, as director Peter Segal and writer George Wing ponder how two lovers make a lasting impact on each others’ lives. It all culminates in a scene where Henry walks into Lucy’s art studio and sees the walls filled with paintings and drawings of himself. In the context of the story, the moment shows how trace memories accumulate to make a relationship. And for Sandler fans, it’s the ultimate realization of the star’s decade-old promise: that he will surround us with his egg-shaped head and all the escapist goofiness it represents.
I was all like "how do you get the phone number for TMZ?!?!" you can't…
I think it's weird when speculation is wedged into an otherwise straightforward biography. I love…
I always read your column BEFORE I watch the show anymore. It's better that way.
What's the other review you read?
This was the worse review I've ever read. Maybe you should quit this career path…