Sandler & Barrymore's Groundhog Romance
Following the success of "The Wedding Singer" which gave us the enjoyable pairing of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, it came as no surprise to me when they paired up again for the "Groundhog Day" style comedy "50 First Dates". Although still your generic Adam Sandler comedy with plenty of anger management issues and roles for various buddies it manages to have a few nice romantic moments thanks to Drew Barrymore. Not that it becomes anything more than your average romantic comedy; it just has some good moments and a memorable soundtrack which includes Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's "Over the Rainbow".
Henry Roth (Adam Sandler - Anger Management) is a happy go lucky sort of guy; he has a good job as a vet on a Hawaiian island and dates the various tourists when they roll up in his neck of the woods. That is until he meets local girl Lucy (Drew Barrymore - Riding in Cars with Boys) and immediately falls head over heels in love with her. The only trouble is Lucy has a rare illness which when she wakes up each morning she cannot remember anything from the day before, not even meeting Henry. Desperate to win her over, Henry sets about romancing her everyday in the hope that one day she will remember him.
The basis of "50 First Dates" follows the tried and tested route that the majority of rom-coms follow where boy meets girl, they fall in love, things go wrong, etc etc etc. But in a clever sort of way it throws in a "Groundhog Day" style element of every day the romance starting a new making it a little different to the norm. It allows for a variety of cute and funny scenes where Henry manufactures meeting the woman of his dreams and in a strange way you end up just waiting for the next one to come along because they are quite enjoyable.
Although the humour in "50 First Dates" is very typical of many Adam Sandler's movies, with plenty of over the top moments, and the seemingly blatant disregard for offending anyone who may be handicapped, I have to admit that it does feel a little toned down. Yes we still see Sandler do his usual shouting act which is meant to make us laugh, but he seems to have pulled back on the throttle in an attempt to make us like him. Does it work, to be honest no; he still comes across as more annoying than funny but it would have really spoilt "50 First Dates" if he hadn't toned his act down. Yes he delivers some truly funny scenes which will make you smile, but in the same breath there are some truly over the top scenes which fail to hit the mark.
Whilst the character of Henry Roth is nothing more than your stereotypical Sandler character, likeable, mildly funny but also annoying it is the character of Lucy, or should I say the performance of Drew Barrymore which lifts "50 First Dates" from being just another Adam Sandler movie. There is something about Drew Barrymore when she plays the vulnerable love interest that makes you fall in love with her, as is the case with her performance here. That is not to say her performance is faultless, far from it, but she is head and shoulders above Sandler or any of the other cast. What is quite surprising is that the pairing of Sandler and Barrymore actually works remarkably well, whilst there may not be a huge amount of romantic chemistry between them, they seem to play off each other brilliantly, which is also an important factor in making "50 First Dates" so enjoyable.
What has become the norm in many of Adam Sandler's movies are appearances from a bunch of stars which always crop up including Rob Schneider, Allen Covert, Blake Clark and Peter Dante who's characters in "50 First Dates" are over the top caricatures which although funny, are purely there as stooges for Sandler.
In his second pairing with Sandler, director Peter Segal has done a reasonable job with the film, but nothing amazing. Yes he has kept it moving at an enjoyable pace, and managed to control some of Sandler's more over the top moments, but that is not really enough to make this film stand out from any of his other films or the numerous other rom-coms which fill our screens. Where he has succeeded is in the brilliant sound track which accompanies the film, filled with laid back music which is very similar to that of musician Jack Johnson, but the climax which features "Over the Rainbow" performed by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole is absolutely magnificent.
What this all boils down to is that by no means the worst rom-com to have been made, "50 First Dates" is nothing more than average with its stereotypical plot and predictable Adam Sandler performance. Whilst the pairing of Sandler and Barrymore definitely works and makes the movie generally enjoyable the fact that every single element of "50 First Dates" is predictable, from the plot, the jokes and the Sandler cronies who provide the supporting characters hugely detracts from making it really special, not even Barrymore's loveable vulnerability can really save it.