Silly, saccharine and sweetly pretty, 50 First Dates, fulfills its role as an offbeat Adam Sandler romantic comedy quite well. It uses all the standard tricks, but each has a unique enough spin to keep me chuckling.
Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) is a marine biologist and full-time tourist womanizer. One day he sees Lucy Whitemore (Drew Barrymore) building a house out of waffles at the local spam and eggs joint. He aids in its construction and they hit it off, making plans to meet the next day. To Henry's chagrin, Lucy acts as if she'd never met him. It is then he learns that Lucy was in a car accident that damaged her short-term memory. She believes every day to be the day of her accident, her father's birthday. So every day Henry must woo her yet again. Lucy's father Marlin (Blake Clark) and brother Doug (Sean Astin), a lisping, steroid using body-builder, keep up the birthday charade, even if it means watching The Sixth Sense for the 100th time. They forbid Henry from seeing her at the diner so, with the help of his reckless native pal Ula (Rob Schneider), Henry stages incredible plots to win Lucy over on her drive home.
While I realize that every joke cannot be a perfectly crafted witticism I have trouble stomaching those movies that are truly too stupid to believe and enjoy. I almost thought 50 First Dates, was ones of these, when the story begins with Doug and Marlin reliving that birthday Sunday for Lucy every morning. As much as we all might like it to be a weekend forever, it's just not going to happen. Luckily, the film didn't linger in the stage of "outrageous yet not funny" for too long. While the schemes Henry puts into motion may not be entirely believable, the ideas were original and the implementation quite amusing. But even these antics became more interesting as the film gains some unexpected complexities.
While Memento made the mental incapacitation of short-term memory loss scary and depressing, 50 First Dates manages to make it rather funny, even if the sadness does creep in. It is these real, if small, moments of emotion that made me care about what happens to the characters. Adam Sandler has a way of endearing himself to audiences by singing lovely little ditties in a high voice while strumming reservedly and he employs this method yet again in 50 First Dates. While I might normally find this repitition slightly annoying (after all, the audience doesn't have any memory loss), it works here because there is an underlying gravity to the situation that, on the surface, is pure comic fodder.
This is also why I was drawn into the beauty of the car accident flashback instead of put off by its self-conscious dramatic cinematography. The twirling car and flying pineapple were oddly humorous and intense and the same time. And there are other moments when visually rich, artsy scenes are slipped in cleverly, such as Henry's dream. As traditionally unremarkable as Sandler's looks are (womanizer perhaps, but heartthrob no), he appears oddly striking as he lays in sparkling wet sand. Then the tumbling mass of Barrymore's blonde curls slides up from the side, completely covering his face and engulfing the now faceless, yet somehow still beguiling, frame.
While 50 First Dates, is not a cinematic masterpiece, the combination of romance, comedy, with just a spicy hint of drama drew me in. Both Sandler and Barrymore exude a particularly adorable variety of charm and charisma that make their mastery of silliness feel like a satisfying night spent with good friends and good drinks. Just don't be surprised if neither remembers you tomorrow.