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50 First Dates (2004)
Rated PG13

Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, and Rob Schneider

Rating:
***
out of
*****

After his performance in 2002's Punch Drunk Love, it's hard to accept Adam Sandler as just a goofy guy with an overactive temper anymore. Now we know he's capable of some depth and range. Not a lot, mind you, but at least more than he ever showed before that P. T. Anderson film gave him the opportunity to stretch a bit.

Before Punch Drunk Love, his last really romantic role was in The Wedding Singer, which also paired him with Drew Barrymore. The two have a certain kind of chemistry and she brings out the best in him in 2004's 50 First Dates.

Sandler plays Harry, a commitment-phobic veterinarian at a Hawaiian aquatic zoo, who's romantic life involves short trysts with tourist women that always end with an unbelievable excuse. Then he meets Lucy (Drew Barrymore) at a local cafe. After one conversation with her, he's smitten and ready to give up his womanizing ways. But there's a catch. About a year previous to their meeting, Lucy received a head injury in a car accident that has robbed her of her short term memory. When she goes to sleep at night, she immediately forgets the previous day and everything that's happened since the accident. Harry is determined to make their relationship work and 50 First Dates documents his many attempts to get things working right.

The plot, while clearly gimmicky, is fun and allows for some truly hilarious moments. Rob Schneider, a Sandler comedy staple, is in rare form as Ula, Harry's married Hawaiian friend who tries to live vicariously through Harry's romantic misadventures. He provides the majority of the film's low-brow humor while, almost unbelievably, Sandler stays on the high road most of the time, save an incident with walrus vomit. Barrymore is her typical self, but remains likeable and plays off Sandler's performance quite well. They make a good pair. Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings' Sam) and Blake Clark (also a Sandler comedy regular) are both good as Lucy's steroid-ingesting brother and over-protective father respectively.

While it's never going to be mistaken for fine art or much else, 50 First Dates is a great date movie. And, honestly, that's all it should be expected to be. In that light, it works well and comes with a recommendation as such. Just be warned, if seeing a walrus vomit might offend you, you may want to try The Wedding Singer first.

Trivia: In an early scene, Rob Schneider attempts a golf drive by running up to the tee before swinging. Adam Sandler says, "That's the stupidest looking swing I've ever seen." This is a joke based on Sandler's character's trademark golf swing in Happy Gilmore. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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