Published Feb 01, 2004In a time when our defences are weakened by movies that are too heavy, too hyped or too serious, along comes 50 First Dates, a trifling romantic stew of Memento and Groundhog Day. And this sneak attack dressed up in the charming guise of Drew Barrymore and the increasingly silly man-child Adam Sandler is just distracting enough to allow us to lower our guard and give in to the enduring magic of watching Little Girl Lost Barrymore chase after Animal Rob Schneider with a baseball bat.
Like another midwinter movie with a good but wasted cast (The Big Bounce), 50 First Dates takes place in Hawaii for no other reason than it allowed some luxurious location shooting. Sandler is Henry Roth, a womanising fisherman who only dates women on vacation and are therefore leaving in a week or two. His fear of commitment gets arbitrarily shattered when he falls for Drew Barrymore's Lucy Whitmore over breakfast at a diner. They make a date to do it again tomorrow, but when Henry shows up, Lucy doesn't recognise him. Due to a car accident, Lucy can't form new memories, but instead of tattooing herself a quest all over her body, Lucy just leads the same day every day the day after the accident, over and over again, with the help of her dad (Blake Clark) and brother (LOTR's Sean Astin).
Henry is so smitten with Lucy that he devises endless new ways to meet and woo her, striving to have her fall in love with him over and over. At first, Lucy's family isn't so down with this plan but Henry wins them over with his commitment to the cause.
Realising that this premise won't hold for a full 90 minutes, director Peter Segal (who's helmed such epics as Nutty Professor II and Naked Gun 33 1/3) and first-time writer George Wing pepper 50 First Dates with somewhat amusing distractions in the form of Samwise Sean Astin as Lucy's steroid-pumping, lisping brother and the requisite appearance of Sandler sidekick Rob Schneider as Henry's Hawaiian friend Ula.
But this is a movie that hinges on the charm and chemistry of Sandler and Barrymore, and while there is a certain ease to their interactions (as evidenced by their other collaboration, The Wedding Singer), 50 First Dates is a thin excuse for both to return to a safe, bankable romantic comedy. (Barrymore after kicking badass butt as a Charlie's Angel, while Sandler represses the rage he tapped in Punch-Drunk Love and Anger Management.) The working vacation in Hawaii didn't hurt either. (Sony)