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50 First Dates

movie reviewmovie review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: 50 First Dates

Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore
Director: Peter Segal
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 106 Minutes
Release Date: February 2004
Genres: Comedy, Romance


*Also starring: Sean Astin, Rob Schneider, Kent Avenido, Dan Aykroyd, Pomaika'i Brown, Blake Clark, Lynn Collins, Allen Covert, Adam Del Rio, Amy Hill



Reviewer Roundup
1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewvideo review
2.  Dustin Putman read the review movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
3.  Susan Granger read the review movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
4.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie review

Review by Harvey Karten
1½ stars out of 4

ed at: Loews Lincoln Sq., NYC, 2/10/04

"50 First Dates" could well have been inspired by the old gag: Guy goes to his physician:

"Doctor, doctor, you've got to help me. I have a real problem. I don't remember anything!"

"How long have you had this problem?"  
"What problem?"   

For a good deal of director Peter Segal's Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore comedy, the gag is repeated, visually of course, but still over and over so that even with her accident-acquired brain damage, Barrymore's character would be hard-pressed to forget.

"50 First Dates" has a dynamite premise beyond the aforementioned gag. What is it like to go on a first date not one or two times but with fifty variations? We're not dealing with a socially inept woman who'd rather wash her hair than go out a second time with a guy, but with a beautiful, classy damsel who must attend to both the joys and sorrows of a succession of first dates with the same person! On the one hand, there is the thrill of discovery with someone new, someone you really like. On the other hand, you've got the awkwardness of being with a person you have, in essence, never seen before and simply do not know how best to act. This dilemma is not that of Henry Roth (Adam Sandler). His flaw, not unknown to the male gender, is the inability to commit himself to such an extent that as the movie opens, he is taking leave of a hot date who wants to be with him for months to come but hustles off quickly in a speedboat pretending that he's a secret agent who must head off to Peru. For her part a car accident has left Lucy Whitmore, however, with a defect in her temporal lobe that allows her to retain her long term memory so that she has no problem relating to her dad, Marlin Whitmore, played by Blake Clark, or to her brother Doug, played by Sean Astin, the latter a dopey, steroid- addicted body-builder unlikely to get even a first date.

Each night, though, she goes to sleep and her memory of the day's activities are erased. Completely.

True to the Hollywood formula, "50 First Dates" mixes comedy with sentiment, giving the audience the lift they came for. Yet the film must be faulted on two grounds: One is the vulgarity of the comedy, the other is worse: that it is just plain unfunny. In the first instance, we have characters who are idiosyncratic to the point of tasteless caricature. These include Ula (Rob Schneider), who for reasons unknown to the script is blind in one eye, who has four handsome and giggly kids but who devotes his time on screen to tasteless physical comedy, acting as Henry's de facto adviser. One proprietor of the Hawaiin restaurant patronized by Lucy and Henry is obese, tattooed and fond of pretending he's ready to put an end to Henry's life with a meat cleaver. Some well-trained walruses they kiss, they give high-fives and the like--are fine except that to appeal to Adam Sandler's pubescent audience one gets ill and throws up, and throws up again and again all over the most obnoxious character in the picture, a woman (or is she a man?) who is Henry's veterinary assistant. Her (his?) big joke in the movie is grabbing someone's butt. And oh, there's a gag centering on the size of a walrus's penis. That, more-or-less embraces the point that there are few laughs with a script that still finds Mr. Sandler unable to duplicate his adorable and believable performance in Frank Coraci's "The Wedding Singer,"

Even in a light comedy, in which we're willing to suspend some disbelief, could you believe that the father and brother of the brain-damaged woman would even want to protect her so much that dad stashes a huge stack of newspapers dated the day of the car crash and endlessly plays videos of the same Sunday football game? Or that Lucy would not find out within three days that time is passing?

Consider the greatest of all comedies with a similar premise, Harold Ramis's "Groundhog Day," in which a weatherman finds himself trapped in a daily replay of the same 24 hours. Ramis gives us twists and turns sadly missing in "50 First Dates."

Ah but there is one major redeeming feature to the film: Go home, go to sleep, and when you wake up you won't remember what you've seen.

Copyright 2004 Harvey Karten

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