After last year's disappointingly bad Anger Management, Adam Sandler makes a grand return to fun entertainment with 50 First Dates. His Wedding Singer co-star, Drew Barrymore, also stars.
50 First Dates tells the story of Henry Roth (Sandler), a Hawaiian veterinarian who avoids commitment at all costs. He meets his match when one day he ends up in a small restaurant and sees Lucy Whitmore (Barrymore), a beautiful and charming young woman that has everything he is looking for - including short term memory loss which makes commitment a non-issue. Okay, so he isn't too thrilled about the short term memory loss (for some reason falling asleep automatically triggers her memory of the previous day to be erased), but he does fall head over heels for her and sets out to become her boyfriend, even though he has to introduce himself every morning. As you can imagine, some strange situations come about.
And most of them are funny. 50 First Dates is consistently funny, with plenty of jokes to span the 100 minutes of screen time. Whereas Anger Management struggled mightily to find its footing, 50 First Dates does so with ease, establishing likeable characters and entertaining subplots. Strangely enough, this is one of Sandler's lighter films - Barrymore seems to balance him out for some reason - as some of the more obnoxious and crude jokes that critics generally don't like are no where to be seen. That isn't to say that the movie is not without its toilet jokes; there is one scene in particular where Sandler's trainee, a horny Russian man-woman, gets puked on by a walrus. Nevertheless, the movie is overall clean, at least for Sandler's standards. This proves that when Sandler just tries to relax and be himself, and focus on the simple jokes that work, that everything benefits.
The leads do a good job, but the supporting cast also helps out as well. Rob Schneider, who inevitably is going to show up in his buddy's films, is very funny as the sleazy best friends. There are no Oscars for a man like this, but he is good at what he is made to do. Furthermore, Sean Astin - best known as Sam from The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Mikey in The Goonies - is quite humorous as Lucy's brother, a steroid-using wimp of a man that is about as far from his characters in the aforementioned titles.
Best about 50 First Dates is that it has many more jokes than what are seen in the previews. So many times do comedies shove all of their best jokes into the trailers, thus extinguishing all chance for the movie to really entertain. Such was the case with Anger Management, not to mention a few of Sandler's other productions (Little Nicky was so bad that there weren't even any good jokes to put in the advertisements). 50 First Dates has plenty of unexpected laughs throughout.
The only thing that really continues to hurt Sandler is the fact that a couple of his classics are... just that - classics. Happy Gilmore is a hilarious movie (watch for the funny reference in Dates), and many consider Billy Madison to be just as good. So, compared to those two films, 50 First Dates isn't nearly as funny, but it still ranks up there among his better ones (and far above his bad ones like Mr. Deeds). This one definitely has a little more romance to it, but - hey - Barrymore in a wet, white T-shirt is never a bad thing.
50 First Dates is a pleasant surprise, a lighthearted Sandler movie that should appeal to broader audiences but still easily satisfy his core base of fans. This one should be regarded as one of the funnier movies of 2004.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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