50 First Dates

2004, Movie, PG-13, 99 mins

Review

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There's a surprisingly sweet romance at the core of this Adam Sandler comedy, despite the standard-issue scatological humor and an annoying supporting turn by Rob Schneider in ethnic drag. Marine-veterinarian Henry Roth (Sandler), unofficial king of the Hawaiian vacation hook-up, is always available to swoop into the life of attractive female tourists and swoop back out just before her vacation ends. Between short-term romances, Henry works at the local aquarium with his best friend, Ula (Schneider), and prepares for his upcoming voyage to Alaska, where he hopes to study walruses in their natural habitat. Those plans are put on hold when he meets lovely Lucy (Drew Barrymore), who captures the eternal bachelor's heart. But there's a catch: About a year ago, Lucy survived a car crash that damaged her short-term memory; she remembers everything about her life before the accident, but new memories vanish while she sleeps — including all knowledge of her new admirer. Lucy's father (Blake Clark) and steroid-popping brother (Sean Astin) have tried to shield her from the truth by pretending that every day is the day of the accident; when that fails, they take her to Dr. Keats (Dan Aykroyd), who patiently walks the understandably distraught Lucy through what really happened. With her family's reluctant blessing, Henry tries to find an easier way of reintroducing Lucy to her life every morning. His unorthodox methods allow them to enter into a real relationship, until the subject of Alaska rears its ugly head. Is Adam Sandler finally maturing? He's been dialing down his belligerent screen persona since the disastrous LITTLE NICKY (2000), and this is easily his most relaxed and normal performance to date. In fact, it's the kind of role John Cusack once made his own; there's even a scene where Henry stands in the rain crying. Reuniting Sandler and Barrymore was a smart move; as in 1998's THE WEDDING SINGER, her natural sunniness helps offset his frat-boy narcissism, and their scenes together are so charming that it's a letdown whenever the movie reverts to sophomoric gags about penis size and fat women. Ultimately, Sandler can't quite pull off the transition from prankster to sensitive leading man; he's clearly still committed to satisfying his core audience. Sandler's shtick is the main thing dragging down this otherwise pleasant romantic comedy, but he's come a long way since the crude, juvenile BILLY MADISON (1995). leave a comment --Ethan Alter

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