IMR: Extras: Reviews: Movies: 50 First Dates

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50 First Dates
[ Rating: 40_of_50_stars ]

Walrus vomit aside, this set-in-Hawaii love story is a fun, surprisingly warm gem of a movie.

From a purely local standpoint, it's refreshing to see a slightly different side of the islands besides surfers and cheesy firedances. "50 First Dates" has lots of local color — from the people to the scenery — that you don't usually get in postcards.

And we're treated to a different side of Adam Sandler as well. To be sure, you still have the original crude and crazy guy whose gross-out jokes have become a trademark ("The Waterboy," "Happy Gillmore") and whose antics have a very specific and critic-defying audience. But now, like Jim Carrey, a more serious thespian is emerging — witness Sandlerís great performance in the absurdly wonderful "Punch Drunk Love."

This latest outing gives us something somewhere between slapstick and sweet, and the mix works. There are baseball bats and bellyflops and more than a few pointless stereotypes walking around, but thereís also actual romance in this "romantic comedy."

Sandler plays Henry Roth, a marine biologist working at Sea Life Park, which is a real marine facility in Honolulu (albeit one that's not quite as advanced as depicted on screen). Wary of commitment, Henry only romances tourists, knowing they'll soon be on a plane out of his life. Inevitably, of course, he falls for a local woman: Lucy Whitmore, played by the insanely adorable Drew Barrymore. And that's not the only twist.

The setup is simple. It's "Memento" as a love story: Henry falls for Lucy, who loses her memory of him every night. As the tagline notes, "Imagine having to win over the girl of your dreams... every friggin' day."

Fortunately, director Peter Segal ("Anger Management") keeps things fresh and moving along despite a storyline that could conceivably go in circles forever. As Henry struggles to perfect his pick-up line every morning, we see Lucy's family go through an excruciating daily routine to reset her world every night.

There are even touches of drama — or at least melodrama — as Lucy's condition is explored and the seemingly impossible romantic situation comes to a head. "50 First Dates" hits nearly all the right notes, so you just might sniffle as well as laugh.

Sadly, with Sandler reaching deeper into his acting bag of tricks, Rob Schneider is called in to fill the stupid quotient. As Ula, Henry's pseudo-sidekick, Schneider cracks crude and wise and delivers one of the worst pidgin (Hawaiian creole) accents in Hollywood history. He comes across more like a Cheech and Chong character rather than anything remotely "native" (especially ironic, since he's half-Filipino). To reach Sandler's usual audience, though, Schneider is a necessary evil. And he does deliver more than a couple of good laughs.

More pity should be heaped on Sean Astin, who has gone from playing an Oscar-caliber hobbit to a swishy, lisping boob. At least it looks like he was enjoying himself.

Thankfully, the people on the sidelines bring with them enough character to make up for what the stars lack. Joe Nakashima is a hoot as the cranky old man at the counter in the diner (locals will swear they know five guys just like him). Amy Hill is so sweet and yet spunky, it's hard to believe she isn't from the islands. And Dan Aykroyd pops in and gets to play it straight, for a change.

"50 First Dates" is not only a great date flick, but a fun film that will surprise even those who pride themselves on being outside Adam Sandler's usual target demographic.


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© 1997-2008 Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: imr@lightfantastic.org [ PGP ] · Created: 12 March 2004 · Last Modified: 14 January 2008