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February 2004

By Julian Roman
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Directed by: Peter Segal
Producer: Adam Sandler, Larry Kennar, Nancy Juvonen, Steve Golin, & Jark Giarraputo
Screenwriter: George Wing
Composer: Teddy Castellucci
Cast: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Sean Astin, Rob Schneider, Blake Clark, & Dan Aykroyd

Unbelievably, Adam Sandler's 50 First Dates is a great film. Talk about being blind-sided by a movie. I used to really despise Adam Sandler. His films were funny in an infantile sort of way, but stupid enough to lower IQ points en masse. I thought he was vastly overrated until I saw the wonderful Wedding Singer. All right, so he made one good film. Then he stretched out a bit and starred in P.T Anderson's brilliant Punchdrunk Love. Just when I was changing my opinion, Sandler delivered two hideous monstrosities. Little Nicky and Mr. Deeds are quite possibly two of the worst films of the last five years. I had pretty low expectations for 50 First dates. I thought it was going to be classic Sandler garbage. I am happy to report that I couldn't have been more wrong. 50 First Dates is a charming film and surefire hit. It has it all, humor, a clever concept, and amazingly, a beautiful romance that will leave audiences enchanted. It's got to be Drew Barrymore. Maybe Sandler has found his muse, because they are fantastic together on screen.

Sandler plays Henry Roth, a veterinarian that spends his days working in an aquarium and nights romancing lusty Hawaiian tourists. He's all about the fling, bag 'em and send 'em back to the mainland. His only goal is to fix his broken down boat and sail it to Alaska, where he can study walrus in their natural habitat. In a stroke of bad luck, Henry's boat breaks a mast and he's forced to spend a morning waiting in a cafÈ near the beach. He sees an attractive girl, Lucy Whitmore (Drew Barrymore), making a tee pee with her waffles. They strike up a conversation and agree to meet for breakfast the next day at the cafÈ. Henry's right on time, but surprised when Lucy has no memory of him from the previous day. He learns from Lucy's friends at the cafÈ that she lost her short-term memory in accident over a year ago. Her father (Blake Clark), brother (Sean Astin), and best friends have created an illusion where Lucy lives the same day over and over again. Never having to face the trauma of her accident. It's too late for Henry, he's smitten and starts thinking of ways to get to know Lucy.

My first thought when I heard about the film was what a stupid concept and how could that possibly be milked for an entire film? The key is Adam Sandler's best-written script to date. The film is very funny, filled with the zany moments we expect, but it's also heartwarming and superbly acted. The audience easily falls in love with the characters. Henry and Lucy are extremely likeable. They actually have chemistry. The trick is to keep the concept flowing without it getting old. This is where 50 First Dates hits a huge home run. The ending is wonderful, a crowd-pleaser that took me by surprise. George Wing, the scriptwriter, deserves some serious respect for his story. He takes a high concept premise and runs with it to glory. I'm not sure how much tweaking Sandler and his buddies did, but the film is solidly entertaining.

The most annoying things about Adam Sandler films are his buddies playing goofy characters. The chief culprit is usually Rob Schneider. I'm actually a big Rob Schneider fan. I loved Deuce Bigalow, but hated his stupid roles as Sandler's witless lackeys. Well the ball keeps rolling in 50 First Dates, because Rob is hilarious as Ula, Henry's Hawaiian aquarium cleaning buddy. Ula has a bunch of kids and spends his time living vicariously through Henry's sexual exploits. I laughed my ass off every time Ula appeared on screen. Finally, a Rob Schneider character in an Adam Sandler film that didn't suck. I'm on pins on needles for Deuce Bigalow 2.

50 First Dates, in my humble opinion, is Adam Sandler's best movie. It's on par with The Wedding Singer on many levels, but surpasses that film with the cleverness of its script. This movie will demolish the box office this weekend. In fact, here is the perfect Valentine's Day film. Both sexes will be aptly entertained and walk out of the theater feeling a little happier. I think that's the real test of any comedy, the way you feel about it afterwards. 50 First Dates had me smiling all the way home. Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore are a great romantic pair. I look forward to their next film together. They are most definitely on a roll.