Henry Roth is a man afraid of commitment up until he meets the beautiful Lucy. They hit it off and Henry think he’s finally found the girl of his dreams, until he discovers she has short-term memory loss and forgets him the very next day.
Year 2, Film #68
THE REVIEW: Adam Sandler has never been one of my favorite comedians. In fact, except for one outlier, I’ve either hated his movies or just found them to be disappointing. 50 First Dates certainly puts up a good fight and its touching story and devotion do make it fun to watch, but in the end it’s still a pretty “meh” film.
For starters, there are many similarities than can be made with Groundhog Day and this is where the film both succeeds and fails. The success is due to the originality in the story. It may have been told before (like with Groundhog Day) but it isn’t seen to often to make it rote and monotonous. 50 First Dates is more about the love between the two main characters, Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) and Lucy Whitmore (Drew Barrymore), than it is about a character trying to overcome his anger and hatred towards the world (as it is in Groundhog Day). Everyday, Henry has to start with a clean slate as Lucy forgets everything that happens due to the short term memory loss she developed after a car crash. It’s a much softer and caring side to Sandler than we’re usually accustomed to and it makes the film more engaging than just an average comedy. It actually makes you feel a bit rather than just laugh, which I find quite impressive for an Adam Sandler movie.
Not to worry though, he still delivers with some dirty humor and crude jokes, mostly made at the expense of his walrus at the marine park (think SeaWorld) or his high friend Ula (Rob Schneider). While it is important in a sense for Adam Sandler to be his usual disgusting self in order to come across and genuine to Lucy it does also create a dichotomy in the films appeal. Part of it is going after your emotions but an equal-sized part is competing for laughs. A film like Groundhog Day handled this well because the two sides worked together to tell the story. With 50 First Dates the laughs really don’t come as a result of the emotional side but in opposition to it. Both sides are OK in their own way and could make great movies by themselves, but to have them compete inside one film makes it lose the appeal of both.
Another big problem this film faces is the importance of the characters. Besides Henry and Lucy, there’s a whole bunch of other characters who range from important to merely extraneous. The problem in 50 First Dates though is that the extraneous characters tend to be the more likable and funny characters while many of the important characters are annoying or just unnecessary. A few of the best characters are Sue (Amy Hill) and Nick (Pomaika’i Brown) who work at the café Lucy always eats at and Dr. Keats (Dan Aykroyd) who runs the facility where Lucy was held for three months after the car crash. They have some of the best lines in the film but they’re only shown very briefly and sporadically. Characters like Doug Whitmore (Sean Astin), Lucy’s brother, and Ula meanwhile are present thoughout the film but serve little to no real purpose. Astin and Schneider do a fairly good job at portraying who their characters are supposed to be but the problem is that they’re annoying and useless. Doug’s role in the film could have been filled by an increased presence in Lucy’s father Marlin (Blake Clark) and Ula’s role was already partially filled by Sue and Nick at the cafe.
50 First Dates was an entertaining and surprisingly original film. While the story isn’t unique, it also isn’t a story that’s been told to death with romantic comedies and therefore still had some life to it. Adam Sandler brings his standard style of humor which does hurt the film, along with many unnecessary characters, but he also brings a lighthearted side as well. Barrymore also helps make this film engaging and fun to watch. And while it is no match for Groundhog Day, the bad parts aren’t too bad and it is worth giving a shot.
THE RATING: 3 out of 5