50 First Dates (2004) – Review

Synopsis: Henry Roth is a man afraid of commitment up until he meets the beautiful Lucy. They hit it off and Henry thinks he’s finally found the girl of his dreams until he discovers she has short-term memory loss and forgets him the next day.

Imagine Having To Win Over The Girl Of Your Dreams… Every Friggin’ Day!

Veterinarian Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) is a playboy afraid of commitment. But when he meets Lucy (Drew Barrymore) in a local diner, he finds himself drawn to her sweet, off-beat personality. Unfortunately, he soon discovers Lucy suffers from short term memory loss due to a car accident the year before and he finds himself having to win her heart all over again, day after day.

While The Wedding Singer remains my favorite rom-com collaboration between Barrymore and Sandler, I realized during my rewatch of 50 First Dates that I enjoy it much more now than I did when I saw it years ago. The weak link in the movie is the first half hour or so. The movie opens with a ridiculous opening montage of various beautiful women lamenting wistfully about their brief but amazing interludes with local Hawaiian stud Henry Roth, which may have worked had the leading man been anyone but Adam Sandler (although perhaps that was a part of the joke). We get to know a bit more about Henry who is quite clearly a commitment-phobe with little to no respect for women. There is some abundant gross out humor (yay projectile vomiting!) and a few juvenile, problematic jokes that fall flat. But once Henry meets Lucy, the movie finally shifts tone and we get to the heart of the story.

What begins as Henry merely trying to prove to himself that he can get any girl he wants begins to turn into a very real connection between he and Lucy. Even when he’s told the truth about her condition, he can’t seem to back away despite warnings from her friends and family. It’s amusing in a Groundhog Day-esque way to watch him come up with various ways to catch her attention as the days pass, and despite how ridiculous it is, I thoroughly enjoyed the sequence where Drew Barrymore beat Rob Schneider’s silly Ula with a baseball bat.

Sandler and Barrymore share such sweet and quirky chemistry that watching Henry try to win over Lucy for most of the movie never gets old. You want her to remember, you want their love to somehow magically cure her memory loss (spoiler: it doesn’t, but that’s also part of the magic of their relationship) and for them to find a happy ever after. We get a heartbreaking kiss in the rain and even though Lucy will never be able to remember Henry in the long term, meeting him has clearly changed her own life for good, making her condition a bit easier not only on herself, but on her father Marlin (a wonderful Blake Clark) and brother Doug (a mildly amusing Sean Astin) as well.

Barrymore has such a shining presence on screen, and she takes what could have been a one-note character and gives Lucy life, creating a character who is both joyful and devastatingly vulnerable in the face of her tragic circumstances. Henry probably doesn’t deserve her, but Sandler projects the emotional depth needed to make us root for him through the character’s growth and determination to not only win Lucy’s heart but to help her as well.

50 First Dates has plenty of gross out moments and it wouldn’t be a Happy Madison production without the sophomoric humor, but ultimately it’s a warm, romantic movie that starts a bit bumpy but finishes strong.

Starring: Drew Barrymore, Adam Sandler, Sean Austin, Rob Schneider, Dan Aykroyd, Blake Clark
Directed by: Peter Segal
Watched: 01.05.2019
Fun Facts:
– Adam Sandler and Peter Segal’s wives have a cameo in the movie as a dentist and patient early on in the movie.
– Lucy’s book is “Still Life with Woodpecker – A Sort of Love Story” by Tom Robbins, which is a love story set in Hawaii.
– The movie’s original title was ’50 First Kisses’.
– This is the second out of three movies Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore would film together. The first being The Wedding Singer (1998) and most recently, Blended (2014).
Notable Song: Wouldn’t It Be Nice by The Beach Boys

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