50 First Dates review by Mike Long

Being able to laugh in the face of adversity is a very positive trait and there are many who appreciate someone who can bring a sense of humor to a stressful situation. In the past few years, we've many comedic films which evoked laughs from potentially distressing or depressing topics, but I'm not sure that I ever expected this from perennial class-clown Adam Sandler, whose past films have rarely ventured anywhere near reality. But with 50 First Dates Sandler and his stable of familiar faces tackle the subject of brain damage and attempt to make a comedy resulting in a film that elicits some very uncomfortable laughter.

In 50 First Dates, Adam Sandler stars as Henry Roth, an Hawaiian veterinarian who works in an aquarium. When Henrys not at work, he likes to meet beautiful tourists and have brief, no strings attached flings with them. Henry feels that this pastime is harmless and has no urge to settle down with a local girl, as he plans to travel to Alaska to study walruses. All of this changes the day that Henry meets Lucy (Drew Barrymore) in a local diner. They strike up a conversation and Henry immediately finds himself drawn to this vivacious woman, and is delighted when they make plans to meet for breakfast again the next day. However, when Henry arrives for that meeting, Lucy doesnt recognize him. Henry soon learns that Lucy was involved in an auto accident and suffered brain trauma, resulting in a condition which prevents her from forming new memories. Thus, each day for Lucy is the day before the accident, and no matter how much fun she has with Henry, those memories will fade before they can be saved in her brain. Lucys dad (Blake Clark) and brother Doug (Sean Astin) care for her and shield her from learning the truth. They also discourage Henry from pursuing a relationship with Lucy, as it could never be normal. But Henry cant deny the feelings that he has for Lucy and is determined to make each day with her memorable.

I've been a fan of Adam Sandler's films since Billy Madison and I always look forward to his movies. Considering that The Wedding Singer is one of my favorite Sandler flicks (saw it in the theater 3 times!), I was excited about a re-teaming of Sandler and Drew Barrymore. But, 50 First Dates wasn't exactly the film that I expected. As Sandler's films have progressed, they've begun to balance a certain level of sincerity with the truly bizarre humor. (The animated Eight Crazy Nights is an exception to this trend.) But, 50 First Dates may have gone to far. True, the trademark Sandler humor is here (more on that in a moment), but the story concerning Lucy's medical condition goes from being serious to dramatic to melodramatic. The scenes depicting the lengths that her dad and brother go through to protect her from reality are actually heart-wrenching. And while no one in the film ever makes fun of Lucy or makes light of her condition (although there are some patients who are played for laughs), it still feels really odd to have brain damage be the focal point of a silly comedy.

But, that's not to say that 50 First Dates doesn't have its high points, and much to my surprise, one of those points comes from Rob Schneider. Now, I've seen Schneider's movies and save for some moments in Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, they sucked. But, here he plays a native named Ula, and lost behind his make-up and bulging belly, this foul-mouthed character generates some true laughs. Another surprise is Sean Astin. Coming from his dramatic turn in The Lord of the Rings series, one wouldn't expect him to be funny, but as the bizarre, lisping, muscle-obsessed Doug, he steals the show. 50 First Dates is based on a script by a man named George Wing, and besides changing the location from Seattle to Hawaii, Sandler and his team presumably added a ton of their brand of humor, such as Henry's androgynous co-worker to a foul-mouthed customer in the diner, the film's serious tones are often blurred by the weird Sandler humor. In some ways, it's nice to see Sandler branching out and trying new things, but 50 First Dates is a very mixed bag. There are some very funny moments, but the movie is also a bit of a downer.

50 First Dates surfs onto DVD courtesy of Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainment. The film has been released onto DVD in two separate formats, one widescreen and the other full-frame. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was screened. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a fine amount of grain at times. Director Peter Segal has taken advantage of the natural beauty of Hawaii, and has loaded the film with many colorful locations and the cast is garbed in bright colors. For the most part, these colors look fine, but they do run together at times. Also, the complexions look somewhat waxy in some scenes. On the plus side, there is only a hint of artifacting and little edge-enhancement. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 audi track which provides clear dialogue and music reproduction. For the most part, the audio in this dialogue-driven comedy is kept to the center and front channels, but there are some moments where the surround sound kicks in, but the LFE channel remains silent throughout much of the movie.

The 50 First Dates DVD contains many extras. We start with an audio commentary from director Peter Segal and star Drew Barrymore. (They apologize for Sandler's absence at the outset.) This is a fun and engaging commentary, but it's not very technical. This pair does give us a great deal of information about the shooting locations and what it was like to work with the cast, but it never goes beyond that. "The Dating Scene" (20 minutes) is a making-of featurette which covers many topics, such as the script, shooting in Hawaii, the cast, and working with the animals. This information is given via behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew. More behind-the-scenes hi-jinks are to be had with "Comedy Central's Reel Comedy" (20 minutes). In this made-for-TV special, Rob Schneider hosts the show as Ula and interviews Sandler and Barrymore in-between clips from the movie. There are actually some funny moments here. "Talkin' Pidgin" is a 5-minute tutorial on Hawaiian slang. The DVD contains 5 deleted scenes, which can be viewed with or without commentary from Segal, and total 5 minutes of running time. There is also a 7-minute blooper reel. Music videos from 311 and Wayne Wonder can be found on the disc. The extras are rounded out by the theatrical trailer for 50 First Dates (1.85:1, 16 x 9) and selected filmographies.


6 out of 10 Jackasses

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