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50 First Dates (2004)

by on 2011/11/16

“Try not to sweat in the sauce.”

* *

I picked up 50 First Dates because it fit this month’s theme of remembrance and memory. Also for Drew Barrymore, the Hawaiian setting, and because the alternatives struck me as a bit downbeat at that moment. Unfortunately, if my heart was light when I began to watch, it was sorely tested by the end of the running time.

If you’re interested in evisceration, then read on. Otherwise, you need only know, this trifle is a low-grade Groundhog Day gone terribly, terribly wrong.

Henry Roth (Adam Sandler of Eight Crazy Nights) is a reckless, man-child bachelor and, oddly enough, a veterinarian. He’s a lying and womanizing Dr. Doolittle endowed with unearned goodwill because he cares for the animals at a water park. In fact, he communicates with them better than he does with actual people.

Until he meets Lucy Whitmore (Barrymore of Everybody’s Fine), that is, for whom he immediately falls. She seems to like him too, yet she rebuffs him the next day. Dan Ackroyd, in a glorified cameo, informs us she has temporal lobe damage, and will forget each day as she goes to sleep each night.

The net effect is a lonely narcissist’s dream. Every single day, Henry forsakes all others to woo Lucy all over again . . . and again, and again, and again.

The supporting cast is mixed, with appearances by Sean Astin (Fellowship of the Ring), Rob Schneider, and Lusia Strus. Only Ackroyd and Blake Clark (as Lucy’s father), however, were remotely enjoyable. Sadly, even Barrymore has her share of clunker moments; the “fish fingers” jokes get old long before they’re done.

I’m simply not an Adam Sandler fan, though I’m hardly any expert. I’ve enjoyed exactly one of his efforts: The Wedding Singer, which also featured Barrymore. But if his presence here is any measure, I won’t be looking for others. At first I thought, “This is really offensive!” Then I decided it was something else, a consistently unfunny sensibility . . . painful slapstick, toilet humour, juvenile stabs at sex and drugs, and a relentless kind of potty-mouth-ism.

The movie’s single laugh-aloud moment belongs to Lucy and a baseball bat. Just watch for it in the trailer and save yourself.

“Who’s the audience for this dreck?” I wondered. The clumsy crudeness had little effect, neither original nor shocking, appropriate or necessary. It stands at odds with the sickly sweet sentiment, never mind the ill-advised droppings of “serious drama”. I can’t imagine its appeal to anyone but a high-maintenance self-loather, and a lowbrow one at that.

I’d say it was a disappointment, but I didn’t expect very much. On the other hand, I didn’t expect so little from it either. I was hoping for a light-hearted confection, but this disposable misfire was a Whizzo box of chocolates as described by Monty Python. Nearly every decision, at every level and step, was anathema to me.

I’m obviously not its audience, because I assumed it was a romantic comedy. 50 First Dates is barely romantic, and even less comedic. It makes me wish for a case of amnesia myself.

* *

Rated PG (Canada) / PG13 (United States)

99 minutes

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