50 First Dates Review
On the surface, 50 First Dates is business as usual for Adam Sandler. It bears all the hallmarks of his personal brand of comedy, which has evolved since Billy Madison but remains reassuringly juvenile. Sandler is playing the same lovable goofball he always plays. There's the usual set of wacky supporting characters, including Rob Schneider as a lecherous Hawaiian, Lusia Strus as a German animal trainer of indeterminate gender and Nephi Pomaikai Brown as a henpecked chef. And yes, Lord Of The Rings fans, that's Sean Astin as a steroid-popping bodybuilder. There's also a generous helping of the locker room humour Sandler is famous for, like the running joke about a well-endowed walrus. At the same time - and I don't expect you to believe me but read on - this is one of the sweetest love stories you'll see this year.
Sandler plays Henry Roth, a vet working at an aquarium in Hawaii. Henry isn't interested in romance. He's marking time till he can begin a round-the-world voyage in the sailing boat he's restoring. In the meantime, he seduces gullible tourists, has his way with them and keeps his phone number to himself. Henry's life changes one morning over breakfast when he spies a pretty blonde woman (Drew Barrymore) at another table, making a little tower out of her pancakes. He strikes up a conversation with her and finds out her name is Lucy Whitmore, she's a teacher and she loves the smell of fish. His defences down, Henry arranges to meet her for breakfast again the next day. Come the morning however, Lucy walks past him like she's never seen him before and, when he tries to sit down with her, she calls for help. Confused and hurt, Henry is taken aside by the restaurant's owner who explains that Lucy has no short-term memory. She was in a car accident a year ago and, ever since, she has started each new day as if it were the same one. Her family and friends try to make her life as comfortable as possible by allowing her to believe time hasn't moved on. Henry has no chance of forming a relationship with her and he needs to back off, something Lucy's father repeats more emphatically when he shows up at her house. But Henry can't step back. He's fallen for this woman and he's fallen hard.
This being a regular Adam Sandler comedy, a Mr Deeds rather than a Punch-Drunk Love, I expected Lucy's condition to be played for laughs and used as a cheap plot gimmick. After all, the last time Sandler and Barrymore appeared together, in The Wedding Singer, their romance was saved by the intervention of Billy Idol. I was sure the situation would be resolved by some silly contrivance like Lucy banging her head again and getting her memory back. Instead, astonishingly, George Wing's screenplay plays fair with Lucy's memory loss. There are no reversals or miracle cures. Her short-term memory is gone for good and if Henry wants to be with her, he'll have to spend each new day making her fall in love with him. How he accomplishes this is clever and touching and made me think about how shallow most movie romances are. True love, we're told, is supposed to be a selfless thing yet how often does a character in a romantic film ever do anything selfless? Love Actually, a pleasant enough piece of fluff, asks us to be moved that a prime minister could fall for a tea lady and a writer for a maid who doesn't speak English. 50 First Dates insists its hero dedicates every day of the rest of his life to caring for a woman who is essentially mentally disabled. Tell me which film is more romantic.
OK, don't let's get carried away. The movie may have some unexpected depth but it's not Romeo And Juliet. It's still an Adam Sandler comedy and if you hate him, it probably won't convert you. Even a sweet Sandler comedy contains people being sprayed with walrus vomit and Rob Schneider pretending to lick his breasts. Believe it or not, there are people who don't find such things entertaining. However, if you're partial to Adam Sandler, as I've been since I saw The Wedding Singer, you should enjoy 50 First Dates and maybe be a little surprised by it. This is a romantic comedy in the best sense, one which is as charming as it is funny, which has something to say about love and which shames some of the more highbrow movies in the genre. And it has some really funny dick jokes.
Last updated: 28/04/2018 07:38:23