50 First Dates Review
While it didn't start off as a reunion film for Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore (last seen together in the very successful The Wedding Singer), 50 First Dates has been marketed very much on the partnership, and the chemistry between the two certainly help this film along. Peter Segal (Anger Management) takes the helm as director and the talented comedic cast includes Dan Ackroyd, Rob Schneider, and Sean Astin. That being said, this rom-com is no slapstick affair.
Adam Sandler plays Henry Roth, who lives in Hawaii and works at a marine park with the assorted animals that live there. Roth has spent a long time now seducing a seemingly-endless string of holidaymakers to avoid commitment; he gives them their perfect holiday romance, then makes his excuses (always ridiculous) and slips away to await his next conquest. But his womanising all comes to an abrupt end when he bumps into local girl, Lucy Whitmore (Drew Barrymore). They meet at a local diner and hit it off immediately, but when Henry returns to the diner to keep a breakfast date the very next day, the plot of the film really takes off.
The problem is, Lucy has a short-term memory condition. (Ready to suspend your disbelief? From this point on in the film, you'll need to!) After a car crash with a cow she can no longer remember anything that happened the day before; obviously this means she also has no idea she was in a crash or that she has a memory problem. Her father (Blake Clark) and steroid-popping muscleman brother (Sean Astin) lovingly recreate the day before the crash for Lucy, celebrating her father's birthday every single day, setting out the same issue of the newspaper for her every morning, watching the same video with her again and again each night, and generally making sure Lucy doesn't suffer any more trauma than she already has.
Amazingly, Henry isn't put off by this; he's so taken with Lucy that he makes it a point to make her fall in love with him every single day. Of course, the cards are stacked somewhat in his favour (reminiscent of Groundhog Day, but then again, what day-repeated film wouldn't really remind us of that classic?) as he knows which buttons to press and finds out more and more about Lucy as he goes along. Of course, Lucy's family and friends are initially concerned that he's just taking advantage of her, but they soon realise that he has only the best intentions. In fact, as their dates continue, Henry begins to hope that eventually he might be able to trigger memory recovery in Lucy.
If you can get past the implausibility of the plot (which is really the biggest downfall here), there's a lot to recommend the film. It's a romantic comedy with some definite dark undertones. Bad days for Lucy show just how disoriented finding out the truth can be for her and the worst one shown is very tastefully handled by all. When Henry starts to use videotapes to help Lucy come to terms with her situation, the comedy lessens but the storyline progresses well. Lucy's memory loss is treated as realistically as it could be, and the treatment given to it received praise for Segal.
Another very strong point is the cast. Sandler and Barrymore definitely have some chemistry; maybe not a passionate one, but you can just tell they enjoy each others' company (and working together, of course!) and it really shows. Sean Astin came straight from the Lord of the Rings films to this, and had to not only change his physique, but play the comic oaf – a role he seems to revel in. And for the first time I didn't find Rob Schneider too annoying to watch. Here he plays Henry's friend, Ula, who definitely has something of Cheech Marin in evidence – he provides many of the film's outright funniest moments, something I really wasn't expecting. Add to this diner owner Sue (Amy Hill) and cook 'Tattoo Face' (Pomaika'i Brown) – as well as some extremely cute kids and remarkable trained animals – and it becomes clear that the cast is definitely a strong suit and helps carry much the film.
It all sounds good, but there's something that doesn't quite click for me with this film, which doesn't quite reach the heights of The Wedding Singer for me. The cast is very strong and their comedic timing must be applauded. The writing is on-the-whole poignant and realistic. It's just the situation; Lucy's memory loss just seems so implausible that it's hard to shake off the disbelief and just sit back to enjoy this romantic comedy.
The picture quality on this 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is really solid. The beautiful locations (both indoor and out) and the varied times of day call for bright colours and sharp detail and the transfer manages superbly with every challenge thrown at it. The colours are strong and bright, blacks are very good and flesh tones still manage to stay natural throughout. It's a really first rate job, with only some small amount of grain and edge enhancements to take away from it a perfect score.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, as you might expect (even though the additional dub languages of Czech and Hungarian seem a bit random, I suppose there's a reason for choosing those two). The audio quality is fine throughout, with little real use of the surround options enabled. (Sometimes when music is playing in the background, it can be heard coming from the rear soundstage, but most action scenes in the film don't seem to send much to the back speakers.) I had no problems hearing the dialogue over the music and other background sounds. Only one other thing to note about the sound here; the music soundtrack is really strong with some great choices that fit the film really well.
There's a pretty well-rounded number of extras accompanying the film, the meatiest of which is the commentary from Drew Barrymore and Peter Segal. It works quite well to have the two of them together as they can play off each other a little. Segal gives an insight into some of the technical work, and occasionally Barrymore pipes up with something relevant from her producer role. Though more often than not she's a bit giggly and is more likely to comment on the other actors or provide anecdotes. There's little quiet time during the commentary which is nice, and overall it's a fairly interesting listen (or read, if you choose to watch it via the optional subtitles) which actually does explain the specific decisions made, shooting techniques used, and what it was like to work on the film.
Next, we're treated to three featurettes. The first of these is a 20-minute affair called 'The Dating Scene'. It's more than just another 'making of' piece and is an interesting watch. With the cast interviewed, we learn how Barrymore was initially interested in the project years earlier, but when Sandler picked it up she knew she had to get involved. Many of the cast also give interviews in-character, which is amusing, if unnecessary. It's within this feature that Astin's home-made audition tape is unearthed and given screen time (an audition that Segal even tells us to go watch during the commentary) and it's definitely worth it. It's still a promotional feature though, and the complete and utter enthusiasm shown by everyone betrays this a little. Still, the information contained within makes it a great addition to the disc. The next featurette is a much shorter one about 'Talkin' Pidgin' – a short (5 minute) film of Hawai'ian natives (and Rob Schneider as Ula) explaining various phrases and words and what they mean. Schneider again takes to the screen as Ula for the final featurette, Comedy Central's 'Reel Comedy'. It's fairly similar to 'The Dating Scene' but this time uses the schtick of Ula interviewing the film's actors which is pretty hit or miss (mostly miss for me, it has to be said). There's little of real interest here, many of the same clips as the other featurette, but without any of the serious or informational input – this is much more of a promotional feature, attempting to play for comedy and directed at Comedy Central's audience. While it doesn't work for me, I'm glad it was added, as often these TV specials get missed out from DVD packages.
After these chunky extras, the DVD returns to more standard fare. First there's a 7-minute blooper reel which is surprisingly unfunny considering the wealth of comedic talent taking part in the film. There's a very short ad/promo spot for Sandler's new album, apparently his fifth. (Suffice it to say it didn't exactly win me over as a consumer.) There are 5 deleted scenes, which you can choose to watch with or without commentary from Peter Segal – these are actually pretty good, and any of them would have fit in well with the finished film. One of the beauties of DVD continues to be that we get an insight into the world of film-making, and Segal eloquently presents his reasons for cutting each of the scenes. Three music videos are also included as part of the special features: 'Hold Me Now' by Wayne Wonder, 'Amber' by 311 and 'Love Song' by 311, and there are also three trailers for Mona Lisa Smile, Mr Deeds and (fittingly) Groundhog Day. The final extra consists of the filmographies – including Peter Segal, writer, George Wing, Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Rob Schneider, Sean Astin and Dan Ackroyd.
50 First Dates is a worthwhile romantic comedy that brings together a great cast, leads with real chemistry between them and great comic timing and some of the most beautiful locations imaginable. The central memory loss premise is a little hard to swallow, but if you're willing to forgive that you're in for an enjoyably poignant and funny film. The special features really make this DVD release worthwhile; they're well executed and cover a lot of ground, just as extras should!
Last updated: 21/06/2018 19:06:28