Feels like the first time
Sandler and Barrymore team up again for a twisted love story and more than a few laughs
There are people who dig Adam Sandler’s brain-damaged man/child shtick, and then there are those like me who loathe it. Fortunately, in 50 First Dates Sandler gives it a rest and plays off his character like an actual human being. He leaves the brain-damaged character to be played by Drew Barrymore, who as Lucy had the trauma inflicted in an auto accident a year before—but doesn’t remember that day, or any day since.
Imagine, if you will, the first day of the rest of your life playing out like some cosmic sick joke lifted straight from a scenario straight out of The Twilight Zone, a day on auto-repeat in which you wake up unaware that the waiting day is a virtual replay of the day before. And the day before that. And so on…
Enter Henry Roth (Sandler), a one-week-stand gigolo who preys on vacationing secretaries and the like visiting the Hawaiian paradise where he works as a veterinarian by day and a lothario at night. That is, until he and Lucy meet cute at a local diner. Immediately smitten and sparked to abandon his shallow ways, Henry is perplexed the next morning to find that Lucy has no recollection of the previous day. Filled in on the nature of her condition, he perseveres.
And so it goes, as Henry becomes the most dedicated suitor in film history, challenged on a day-to-day basis to make Lucy fall in love with him all over again. And to save her from the insidious torture of reading the same damned Tom Robbins book every day to infinity.
Despite resembling a Farrelly Brothers (There’s something About Mary) knock-off (plenty of gross-out jokes and a supporting cast of “unique” characters), 50 First Dates is a surprisingly sweet romantic comedy, if one can ignore the dubious nature of the set-up. Of course it helps that the supporting cast (including an unrecognizable Rob Schneider as a stoner local and hobbit Sean Astin as Lucy’s steroid-impaired brother) pick up enough of the screen time to allow for minimum Sandler exposure, allowing for plenty of laugh-out-loud situations (although he does regress for a couple of interminable gags for the backward-baseball-cap crowd).