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"50 First Dates" - Movie Review

  • Annabelle Robertson Entertainment Critic
  • 2004 2 Feb
  • COMMENTS
"50 First Dates" - Movie Review

Release Date:  February 13, 2004

Rating:  PG-13 (for crude sexual humor and drug references)

Genre:  Romantic Comedy

Director:  Peter Segal

Actors:  Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Sean Astin, Missi Pyle, Rob Schneider

Review:  If this film meets the standards for a PG-13 rating, then somebody needs to start howling to the Motion Picture Association of America, because the filth in “50 First Dates” isn’t limited to walrus vomit (although there is plenty of that).

Adam Sandler plays Henry Roth, a veterinarian at an animal park in Hawaii. In his spare time, he beds dozens of tourist women – and the occasional man. After spotting Lucy Whitmore (Drew Barrymore), a local with a penchant for waffle-stacking, all that changes. Henry is smitten and ready for commitment. Unfortunately (or maybe not), Lucy has a brain injury – the result of a car accident that left her no scars and no short-term memory. Her brain resets at night when she goes to sleep, so she wakes up every day thinking it is the morning before the accident, with no recollection of anything that happened the previous day. Think “Groundhog Day” with a twist.

OBJECTIONABLE CONTENT: "50 First Dates"

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Adult Themes: 

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Drugs/Alcohol Content:

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Aiding this conundrum are Lucy’s doting father (Blake Clark) and her steroid-popping, body-building brother (Sean Astin). With help from the entire village, they codependently recreate the same scenario, every morning, so Lucy won’t be “traumatized.” Meanwhile, Henry has managed to convince Lucy to fall for him. But can he do it again?  And again?  And again?

It is hard to convey how awful this film is without sounding like my dog just mangled my favorite sweater (“Bad! Bad! Bad!”). For the sake of those who might believe this is a worthy Valentine’s film, however, I will certainly try. 

From a creative standpoint, the plot has promise and there are times when director Peter Segal shows talent. Lucy tries to erase Henry from her journal and scrapbook in a beautiful scene. Like the filming of her accident, it feels like something from another film, and the message is noble. Lucy is willing to sacrifice her love so that Henry can live a normal life with someone else. The problem is, Lucy’s injury is the perfect solution for a man like Henry. Even though he has to make her fall in love with him every day, he never has to engage in any emotional depth. They’re on a perpetual first date. For a guy who’s afraid of intimacy and commitment, that is mighty convenient. So, while some might say Henry’s sudden turnaround is “romantic,” his change is merely superficial.

The acting? Sandler and Rob Schneider offer the same old sick schtick, with Barrymore as her usual sweet, ding-a-ling persona. Segal’s direction flounders, so he keeps cutting to animal shots – and this is where he gets sneaky. The adorable animals (a penguin in a Hawaiian shirt, a talking walrus), are designed to attract children. The dialogue, however, is littered with sex talk, crass jokes and lewd gestures, which make this a film for adults (albeit ones with puerile tendencies). So who’s his audience? Anyone willing to pay the price, I guess – but leave your brains and morals at the door.

Henry is a pervert who tricks willing tourists into sleeping with him before his miraculous transformation into family man. He continually refers to the size of the male walrus’ genitals. He sings a song to Lucy about her genitals (rhymes with her name). Begging her to go to bed with him, which she does (while the animals and Henry’s friend all watch), he makes a joke about waiting too long and the resulting color of his genitals.

Henry’s co-worker is a transsexual Russian who can’t decide whether he/she likes men or women, but who certainly talks about his/her sexual tastes on a regular basis.  He/she ultimately decides he/she likes “sausage” over “tacos” (to give you an idea about the vulgarity) and falls for Lucy’s brother, in an odd match that is maybe heterosexual, maybe homosexual – nobody knows.

Henry’s best friend, Ula (Schneider, sporting a nasty wig, a glass eye and an accent sure to inflame the National Association of Hawaiian People) is a pot-smoking, peeping tom who brags about his infidelities and ugly wife. He carries a joint in the crack of his rear and lambastes his five kids. When Lucy takes a bat to him – in a fairly vicious attack – you can’t help but cheer the girl on.

Even if you’re a Sandler fan (my sympathies), you will still be disappointed in the lack of originality in this film, which is full of “Saturday Night Live” falsetto songs and gags (Tom Hanks’ Mr. Short Term Memory). There’s an angry golfer scene from “Happy Gilmore.” The love match between Barrymore and Sandler – complete with '80s tunes – is straight from “The Wedding Singer,” and the Hawaiian setting harks back to Sandler’s “Punch-Drunk Love.” The ending was sweet and well-filmed, but it was way too little, way too late, wading among too much muck.

“50 First Dates” is filled with the kind of bawdy humor that gives frat boys a bad name. Then again, somebody was laughing during the screening, so maybe it was them. I hope, for your sake, it won’t be you.