A ‘Date’ worth remembering

Ted Pigeon

If you combined all the sappiness of a Drew Barrymore romance movie, all the crude jokes and over-the-top characters of an Adam Sandler comedy and the premise of “Groundhog Day” into one movie, what you’d get is “50 First Dates,” a likeable, but sometimes incidental romantic comedy. In it we are given a more calmed down and milder Adam Sandler than we have seen in the past and this film follows the same pattern and embodies a gentle nature. As a result, the typically over-the-top characters and situations that regularly populate a Sandler comedy feel awkward and out of place, and sometimes the romance does, too, as a result. Nevertheless, this is still a reasonably enjoyable and funny movie.

Adam Sandler plays Henry Roth, a Hawaiian veterinarian who spends most of his time either taking care of penguins and walruses or seducing women who are only around for a night or two. He’s a nice guy who knows how to push all the right buttons, but his fear of commitment limits his sights in regards to many of the women he sees. That all changes though when he meets Lucy Whitmore, played by Drew Barrymore, while the two are eating breakfast at a diner. The two strike up a conversation, and Henry finds himself more attracted to Lucy then any other girl he’s met before.

They hit it off well and they decide they want to see each other again, but one piece of information eludes them both: when Lucy wakes up the next morning, she won’t remember a thing. It turns out that Lucy has lost her short-term memory after a terrible car accident months ago. She goes to bed each night and wakes up the next morning with no recollection of what transpired the day before. She only remembers the day before the crash, and every day she wakes up, she thinks it’s that day. Her father and brother tirelessly make sure that she doesn’t know of her condition.

Obviously, this notion is the springboard for much of the film’s comedy and the thrust of the plot, and though it doesn’t make any sense when thinking about it, it still provides for a good number of funny situations. Every day, Lucy wakes up thinking it’s Sunday, and she happily goes to breakfast, comes home and paints. As for Henry, he tries every day to recreate the same magic the two had when they met the first time, but he quickly finds it quite hard as he ends up being rejected in every way imaginable. But he never gives up because he thinks something is really there. And after several attempted pick-ups gone wrong, he’s finally able to win over her hard-nosed father and muscle-head brother, and he decides to break the news to her every day; from there, the two begin a relationship of sorts.

The movie takes a turn towards the romantic around midway through, and takes itself far more seriously than one would think. What’s even more surprising is that the sentimental turn the film makes actually isn’t bad, and that’s due to the sincerity of the characters involved. What does feel strange is the continuing presence of all the “Sandler” trademarks, including the obligatory idiot Rob Schneider character.

As the film gets more involved in its characters, there really is no need for such elements. Director, Peter Segal must not have felt completely comfortable with the sentimentality of it all so he decided to throw in these bits of comedy throughout.

At the point where the film begins to take itself more seriously, you’ll either be completely turned off to it or you’ll buy into its charm and find it more engaging than your typical modern-day comedy. I would fit into the latter of the two. Yes, the premise closely resembles “Groundhog Day,” the plot doesn’t make much sense at times and the needlessly over-the-top supporting characters add nothing whatsoever to the film, but its characters have some dimension and are surprisingly sympathetic. And I also admire the fact that the film never really takes the easy way out in what it’s dealing with.

Despite all its flaws, “50 First Dates” still works as good entertainment, and it does so because the characters are worth caring for enough to look beyond the numerous plot holes and inconsistencies in the story. Not everything about the movie works, but the overall charm and surprising sincerity of it won me over in the end.