Review: 50 First Dates

The film’s charm and compassion is repeatedly drowned out by completely lowbrow distractions.

50 First Dates
Photo: Columbia Pictures

Henry Roth (Sandler) is a marine veterinarian working for Sea Life Park in Hawaii. After his schooner goes bust, he lands on a nearby island and befriends waffle-loving Lucy Whitmore (Drew Barrymore) at the Hukilau Café. Problem: Lucy has absolutely no short-term memory, which means that her meet-cute with Henry is non-existent come morning. Rather than preserve the illusion that Lucy is living the same life she was living before her tragic car accident, Henry convinces the girl’s dad and brother to tell Lucy the truth each and every morning using a videocassette tape. Rather than rake first-time screenwriter George Wing over the coals, let’s blame market research for this latest Sandler catastrophe. At the very heart of 50 First Dates is a rather endearing story about a himbo who learns to live life for someone else for a change. Also to the film’s credit is its happily bittersweet finale. But the film’s charm and compassion is repeatedly drowned out by completely lowbrow distractions. (How many more times do we need to see Rob Schneider playing a minority?) Peter and Bobby Farrelly use the grotesque to illuminate human frailty while filmmakers like Peter Segal stoop low in order to validate their characters. The people and animals in 50 First Dates are sideshow attractions that exist only to respond to Adam Sandler, or give scenes that aren’t funny the semblance that they are. The film’s opening title sequence sets Henry up as an international lothario who appears to have slept with a man. And that’s only the first gay joke! Alexa, Henry’s co-worker at Sea Life Park, may or may not be a woman, and it’s the character’s iffy sexuality that gives way to at least 30 more gay cracks. “I’m not into guys,” says Henry to Alexa, who prefers “sausage” to “tacos” (get it?). It gets worse: Lucy’s weight-trainer brother has a lisp, her family splices a clip of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” into her morning video, no one can stop talking about how big a walrus’s dick can get, and one of Lucy’s friends gets gender reassignment. We get it already: The filmmakers have never been fucked in the ass. Now, can we get back to Henry and Lucy?

 Cast: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Sean Astin, Rob Schneider, Dan Aykroyd, Blake Clark, Lynne Collins, Maya Rudolph  Director: Peter Segal  Screenwriter: George Wing  Distributor: Columbia Pictures  Running Time: 96 min  Rating: PG-13  Year: 2004  Buy: Video, Soundtrack

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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