Adam Sandler is doing what comedic actors everywhere strive to do: be taken seriously once in a while.
Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) makes his home in the Aloha State. Roth is infamous for romancing the tourists (which Roth sees as perfect, non-committal, one-week relationships) and coming up with outlandish excuses to break them off in time for their departing flight. Lucy Whitmore (Drew Barrymore) is a happy island girl who likes to make things out of her morning waffles and hijacks Roth’s carefree island life. Infatuated, Roth decides to pursue Lucy, but discovers that she has a rare condition that makes her forget the previous day after she falls asleep. The question becomes, how long can Roth keep coming up with new ways to romance a woman who forgets him completely every night?
Love him or hate him, Adam Sandler has a good thing going. Since Happy Gilmore, Sandler has been perfecting a formula that pits over-the-top gags and gross-out humor against real-life drama, but the drama usually loses out to the toilet humor. That started to noticeably change with Big Daddy, when the drama side of the Sandler formula was cranked up a notch and audiences responded, then continued with Punch-drunk Love, which wasn’t even a Sandler film but got positive critical response anyway. Now with 50 First Dates, Sandler has blurred the line between comedy and drama completely.
50 First Dates deals humorously with a real (or at least plausible) medical condition and then manages to use it as both the catalyst and obstacle for a relationship, so while it isn’t a direct relative of any Farrelly Bros. film, it’s at least a distant cousin. Co-produced by both Sandler’s Happy Madison productions and Barrymore’s Flower Films, the movie reunites the stars of The Wedding Singer and their onscreen chemistry; they?re both just weird enough to make all this wacky but still something to believe.
Watch for bits by Sean Astin playing a metabolic muscle-head and Dan Ackroyd as a down-to-earth doctor, but the meatiest part is owned entirely by Rob Schneider?s transformation into Ula, a Hawaiian native repeatedly upstaged by his own children. Fans of early Sandler fare may feel he’s getting softer as he’s getting older, but those looking for an enjoyable date film or romantic comedy can see Sandler is getting smarter and more subtle with his art, even if Drew Barrymore has to drag him up that hill kicking and screaming.
(a three skull recommendation out of four)