50 First Dates

The Adam Sandler vehicle 50 First Dates is a study in opposites. Where Sandler vehicles are generally lowbrow comedies with half-hearted romantic subplots tossed in to placate female fans, 50 First Dates is a girly, saccharine romance with scatological gags thrown in to placate Sandler's central fan base: 12-year-old boys of all ages and genders. The movie is anomalous in other respects, as well: Sandler usually plays losers and rage-choked misfits, but in 50 First Dates, he's a well-off veterinarian who's conspicuously successful, particularly with women. Re-teaming with Anger Management director Peter Segal, Sandler stars as a Hawaiian Casanova who takes advantage of his island's status as a vacation paradise by seducing, then discarding, hordes of attractive, sexually aggressive vacationers. Sandler's tomcatting days seem to come to an end, however, when he falls for pretty local resident Drew Barrymore, the victim of a rare and narratively convenient affliction that obliterates her short-term memory. Reunited for the first time since The Wedding Singer, Sandler and Barrymore make sense as a couple: He's an endearing man-child with self-negating body language and a bashful smile, while she's sunny, bright, charming, and lovably girlish. Barrymore's radiance even makes it plausible that a character like Sandler's, accustomed to expending minimal effort to attain casual sex, would suddenly devote maximum effort to a PG-13 relationship where sex is, for the most part, only a distant possibility. Sandler's last deviation from his usual template, Punch-Drunk Love, alienated his followers by being self-consciously arty. By contrast, 50 First Dates is likely to alienate them by being dull and sappy, though anyone who finds Sandler dreamy should love it. Sentimental to a fault—which certainly can't be said about many other films that prominently involve walrus vomit—50 First Dates might have worked better had the filmmakers committed to making a romantic drama, instead of hedging their bets with broad comic support from the likes of Rob Schneider and Sean Astin, who sacrifices a big chunk of his dignity to play Barrymore's lisping, muscle-shirt-clad brother. Given 50 First Dates' subject matter, it may be fitting that Sandler and company have made a movie that most people won't remember the day after they see it.

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