Film Reviews

50 FIRST DATES

By • Feb 13th, 2004 •

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Columbia Pictures / A Happy Madison / Anonymous Content / Flower Films prod
Running time — 99 minutes / MPAA rating: PG-13

I do not begrudge the huge twenty million dollar salaries, the palatial homes, the cars, the fame, or the glory, but I do resent that Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore have such little regard for their fans that they do not bother to miss a meal preparing for this movie.

Both are fat. What are the filmmakers to do? One common solution is to surround gone-fat stars with an obese supporting cast. This makes our stars skinny by comparison. Just obese does not appear to be enough here. Nearly every supporting player has something wrong with them: Sandler’s co-worker Alexa is sexually ambiguous and vile, his “Hawaiian” best friend (Rob Schneider) is a narcissist with one bulging blue eye and an extended belly; Barrymore’s steroid-using brother (Sean Astin) has a prominent lisp, and the neighborhood cook has a tattooed face.

In the Sandler-Barrymore world all native Hawaiians are obese. There wasn’t a bikini in sight.

Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) lies to tourists visiting Hawaii. He tells them he is a secret agent. He has sex with them (old, young, men, women) and then sends them merrily off, happy with memories of a terrific week of sex. Looking at Sandler, one thinks: Huh?

Henry is really a very sweet marine veterinarian working for Sea Life Park in Hawaii, but in his personal life he is just interested in casual affairs with tourists. Until he eyes Lucy Whitmore (Barrymore) having breakfast at a tiny village café. There is something about Lucy that opens his heart. It must be that she builds houses out of waffles.

Sadly, Lucy survived a car accident and has lost her short-term memory. Instead of her dealing with this as countless people do, her father and brother have created a false reality for her. They just re-construct the last day she remembers. Every day the same day is replayed. It is a lot of work, but father and brother are dedicated to making Lucy’s world free of hardship and reality.

People go along with this facade because Lucy is such a sweet, kind person. In fact, Lucy is holding her family and friends hostage.

Now Henry has to make Lucy fall in love with him every day! This high-concept conceit panders to a love-starved audience and one of Sandler’s key psychological hooks. Sandler has a trail of movies that follow a predicable romantic notion.

Finally, Henry convinces Lucy’s father and brother to show her a videotape he has made. Lucy agrees to have Henry woo her every day until she overhears him talking about his dream to sail around the world. Now that Lucy needs him, he has stopped planning his dream. Lucy frees her family and goes to live and work in a clinic specializing in brain disorders.

Warning: Spoiler ahead!

Eureka! Now on his schooner ready to sail, Lucy’s father gives Henry a home-made CD. The Beach Boys song, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?,” is a signal to Henry. Lucy remembers him!

What a plot point! I was waiting to see how first-time screenwriter George Wing cleverly solved the conundrum he set up. Wing keeps lobbing the same jokes at us: The walrus’s huge penis, the brother’s steroid use and the gay jokes! Perhaps Sandler’s teenage boy fan-base has seductive homosexual dread that needs to be relieved through jokes, but how about Sandler paying for a very intuitive script that mines this field appropriately and constructively?


Credits:
Director: Peter Segal
Screenwriter: George Wing
Producers: Jack Giarraputo, Steve Golin, Nancy Juvonen
Executive producers: Daniel Lupi, Michael Ewing, M. Jay Roach
Director of photography: Jack Green
Production designer: Alan Au
Music: Teddy Castellucci
Co-producers: Larry Kennar, Scott Bankston
Costume designer: Ellen Lutter
Editor: Jeff Gourson

Cast:
Henry Roth: Adam Sandler
Lucy Whitmore: Drew Barrymore
Ula: Rob Schneider
Doug Whitmore: Sean Astin
Alexa: Lusia Strus
Marlin Whitmore: Blake Clark
Dr. Keats: Dan Aykroyd
Sue: Amy Hill
Ten Second Tom: Allen Covert
Nick: Nephi Pomaikai Brown

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