50 First Dates

50 First Dates

directed by Peter Segal

starring Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Rob Schneider, Sean Astin, Blake Clark

Columbia Pictures

What more could a lothario want than a ravishing blonde who forgets the previous day’s events when she falls asleep? Just think of the possibilities… Adam Sandler has, and in his new feel-good flick, 50 First Dates, rejects them all when that ravishing, eternal one-night stand turns out to be the girl of his dreams.

Sandler again plays a barely-altered version of himself, Henry Roth, a veterinarian at an Oahu Sea World-type of amusement park. When he’s not taking care of a projectile-vomiting walrus or a highly intuitive penguin, Henry’s bagging more tail than Hef on a Viagra bender. Posing as a secret agent or a cliff diver, Henry, urged on by his perverse Hawaiian sidekick Ula (ever-present and ever-hilarious Rob Schneider, with a deep tan and cloudy eye) snags lonely tourist after lonely tourist. It’s a perfect setup for a committment-phobic fellow, but Henry is getting weary of it all; he plans on getting the hell off of the island soon, to sail his battered ketch to Alaska and study walruses.

And then along comes Lucy Whitmore (Drew Barrymore, getting more voluptous by the movie). Henry spies her building a house out of waffles at a beach diner, and it’s love at first sight. After spending half a day together, they plan on meeting again the next morning.

When Henry arrives for the date, the waffle-obsessed art teacher doesn’t recognize him. It seems Lucy suffers from a rare form of brain damage as a result of a car accident the year before. Every day, the diner’s Hawaiian staff humor her; at home, her doting father (Blake Clark) and steroid-damaged, lisping brother (Sean Astin) go to great pains to make every day just like it would have been the day of the accident — her dad’s birthday. A doctored newspaper is ready every morning, the three eat the same kind of birthday cake every evening, and they watch the same taped football game and film every night.

Though he has been warned by Lucy’s family and friends to stay away, the spellbound romeo just can’t resist her. The next problem is that Henry’s initial come-on doesn’t work the next time he tries it at the diner; he winds up resorting to more and more elaborate means of getting her attention.

When Henry realizes that he truly loves Lucy, he also discovers that the elaborate deceptions designed to avoid Lucy going into shock every morning aren’t fair to her — or them. “What are you going to do when she wakes up one morning, looks in the mirror and sees that she’s aged ten years overnight?” Henry asks Dad.

The lovesick vet soon formulates an ingenious plan, and the film turns a page to its second, even more charming act.

Henry Roth, like so many of Sandler’s supremely nice everyman characters of past movies (Mr. Deeds, Big Daddy, etc.) is sure to make many males in the audience feel terribly inadequate, but 50 First Dates is nonetheless a great date movie — and, if the gals can forgive their date’s relative shortcomings, a perfect Valentine’s day flick. With her bad-girl phase seemingly behind her, co-producer Drew Barrymore has exuded a genuine sweetness onscreen recently, and this effort is no exception. Mr. Sandler has to be commended, as well. It is not easy to gather the same cameo-snagging friends every year to make another installment of his Happy Madison production franchise, but Sandler (this time around assisted by Anger Management director Peter Segal, as well as Dan Ackroyd in a perfect role) never seems to run out of entertaining scripts, never seems to run out of steam. Refreshingly, the “local” cast, slang and gorgeous scenery is authentically Hawaiian, proving to be a nice touch, as are the awfully cute animals.

Yes, 50 First Dates is a bit of a ripoff of Groundhog Day, and yes, it does require a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, but taking your significant other to this top-notch romantic comedy is a guarantee of a very pleasant evening afterwards. (Note: the terminally single should not see 50 First Dates; you will only go home and ponder your wretched existence with an even darker cloud overhead).

50 First Dates: http://50Firstdates.com/

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