50 First Dates
Columbia/Tri-Star // R // $28.95 // June 15, 2004
Review by Randy Miller III | posted May 31, 2004
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Having previously appeared together in The Wedding Singer (1998), actors Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore have proven themselves an on-screen couple with a likeable chemistry. Now, five years later, the two have been reunited in 50 First Dates, the sixth feature film from director Peter Segal (Anger Management, Nutty Professor II). Filled with beautiful Hawaiian landscapes and colorful characters, it's a romantic comedy with more scenery than story.

In short, this movie follows the life of Lucy Whitmore (Barrymore), a young woman whose short-term memory was damaged in an automobile accident. Every morning, she awakens with no memory of what happened the day before, living each day roughly the same. Her father (Blake Clarke) and brother (Sean Astin) are totally committed to living each day with her, and dedicate their lives to protecting her from finding out the truth each day.

Along comes Henry Roth (Sandler), a long-time supporter of the one-night stand. He works locally as a vet, handing animals of the more exotic variety, and falls for Lucy in a small local restaurant. After learning her secret from the locals (and her overprotective father), Henry has a sudden change of heart. Lucy seems to be the woman of his dreams, as he soon begins devoting more and more time to her company. The problem is, each day is a new "first date", and winning her favor gets more and more frustrating each time. However, Henry is committed to earning her trust and respect, and works hard to make things easier on Lucy. At times, it's genuinely moving and funny, but not consistently so.

As a romantic comedy, 50 First Dates doesn't bring anything new to the table. It follows the same "rejection, acceptance, happily ever after" method as hundreds of films before it, and was just begging for a more focused tone. As an "Adam Sandler movie" (of which I've never been a huge fan), it also breaks little ground. Essentially, Henry Roth is virtually the same character as in nearly all of Sandler's previous films, creating a serious feeling of déjà vu (especially in regards to his relationship with Lucy, which bears an inevitable similarity to The Wedding Singer). Of course, there's always the Sandler-movie trademark of unnecessarily odd characters, from an asexual co-worker to a one-eyed best friend (played by Rob Schneider, Sandler's professional sidekick). In short, the awkard characters and occasionally embarrassing dialogue make for an unfocused film that switches gears more often than it needs to. Basically, if you're looking for more competent romantic comedy with a similar theme, do yourself a favor and rent Groundhog Day.

As it stands, 50 First Dates is little more than half of a good movie. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, but it doesn't rank high on my list of most memorable film experiences. Still, the beautiful scenery and decent chemistry between the two leads makes for a modestly entertaining and breezy 90 minutes. It's not the best in its genre by far, but it's not a terrible choice for light Friday evening entertainment. If you're a big fan of Sandler and/or Barrymore, chances are you might find something to like about this film. Just don't set your hopes too high, and you'll be fine.

This release comes to us (in an amazingly quick theater-to-DVD turnaround time) from the good folks at Columbia/Tri-Star. As with most newer mainstream releases, this disc boasts a terrific technical presentation. Unfortunately, as with most newer mainstream releases, the bonus features aren't really anything special. Read on for the complete scoop:

Quality Control Department

Video Presentation:

50 First Dates is presented in its original 2.35:1 anamorphic aspect ratio (quite unusual for the comedy genre), and looks terrific! The film itself features beautiful cinematography, and the DVD does a great job of keeping the atmosphere strong and clear. From the brightest beaches to dimly-lit campfires, the image transfer was clean and problem-free. Colors were well-rendered, and the black levels were also very strong throughout. Although a bit of edge enhancement crept in on occasion, this is a generally excellent video presentation by Columbia/Tri-Star.

Audio Presentation:

The audio was presented in English or French Dolby 5.1 Surround, and was a pleasing mix overall. Surrounds were limited for the most part, and usually reserved for general ambience and musical cues. Dialogue was primarily anchored in the front channel, typical for a dialogue-driven movie. This was pretty standard fare and isn't meant to act as home theater demo material, but it's a perfectly faithful adaptation of the original theatrical experience.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging:

Menu designs were animated and generally well-done, themed around the videotape Drew Barrymore's character received in the movie. Transitions are somewhat curious, and almost resemble moving through still photographs of scenes from the movie. Navigation and overall layout was simple and easy to use. The 98-minute film was broken into 18 chapters, with a layer transition detected roughly 52 minutes into the feature. The packaging was not on hand for this screener copy.

Bonus Features:

This film is dubbed a "Special Edition", and contains a number of special features...but most of them are fluffy and forgettable. First up is perhaps the most informative extra: a feature-length Audio Commentary with Director Peter Segal and Drew Barrymore (Adam Sandler is strangely absent from the festivities). Both participants share the time equally, and obviously seem comfortable with one another during this laid-back commentary. The majority of the stories told are more personal than technical, but this keeps in tone with the style of the movie.

Next up is a series of Featurettes, the first of which is "The Dating Scene" (20 minutes), a general look behind-the-scenes of 50 First Dates. This was filmed on location during the film's production, and is slightly better than your typical promotion piece. Less substantial is "Talkin' Pidgin" (5 minutes), a featurette dedicated to the Hawaiian slang used in the movie, as local residents are on hand to explain things more clearly. Next is Comedy Central's "Reel Comedy" (20 minutes), which is another look behind-the-scenes. This one is hosted by Ula (Rob Schnieder's character), and is much more candid and laid-back, but won't tell you anything new. Also here is a Blooper Reel (7 minutes) and a series of 5 Deleted Scenes (5 minutes) with optional director commentary.

Unfortunately, the remainder of these special features is entirely forgettable (except for the always welcome series of Filmographies). There's a preview for Sandler's New Album, which really had no place being on this disc. Also included is a series of three Music Videos by Wayne Wonder and 311 (one of which is a life performance). To wrap things up, there's a substantial collection of Previews for other Columbia/Tri-Star releases (a number of which are Sandler and/or Barrymore vehicles). Although I love trailers as much as the next guy, these were only brief 30-second TV spots.

Overall, the bonus features were a mixed bag. The majority of these extras were only worth one look, and were largely promotional in nature. Still, it's a tough call, since this film doesn't exactly lend itself to very substantial extras. Only die-hard fans of the movie will find all of this stuff to be of much interest, and the overall presentation of this package is hardly anything DVD fans haven't seen before.

Final Thoughts

50 First Dates isn't a total loss, though even fans of Sandler will find it a bit too uneven for its own good. The chemistry of Sandler still works fairly well with Barrymore, while the exotic location of the film earns it a few points. Still, 50 First Dates does absolutely nothing to advance the genre---and even with a few genuinely funny sequences, its faults stick out like a sore thumb. In short, most casual viewers should think twice before diving right in and making a blind buy. If you loved this in theaters, chances are you won't be disappointed with this DVD release from Columbia/Tri-Star. For everyone else, I'd recommend that you proceed with caution. Rent It.

Randy Miller III is an art instructor and gallery assistant based in Harrisburg, PA, who also enjoys freelance graphic design and illustration. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.

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