First, the good news: 50 First Dates reunites Adam Sandler with Drew Barrymore, the female lead in one of the goon-god's sweetest, most all-round enjoyable flicks, 1998's The Wedding Singer. Now for the bad: Sandler's also hooked up again with Peter Segal, the man behind last summer's lucrative-but-lazy therapy-com Anger Management. Do the maths, and the sum of this rom-com comes up pretty much as you'd expect: heavy on star chemistry, light on decent laughs.
And nowhere is the chuckle drought more desperate than in the Drew-less first act, a real uphill slog. Pegging Henry first as a commitment-phobe, then as a dedicated vet, Segal reduces Sandler to playing straight man to trained animals: penguins, barfing walruses, Rob Schneider. Not that the Sandler sidekick's glass eye, tedious pratfalls and hokey Hawaiian accent single him out as the film's lamest comic character. No, that wooden spoon goes to Henry's dismally unfunny ladyman assistant Alexa (Lusia Strus). All in all, it's an unpromising launch-pad for the movie's Memento meets Groundhog Day high concept.
But when Barrymore's short-term amnesiac breezes into view, things start to perk up. Not only is the actress' smiley sunshine charm cranked up to maximum; she also gets a fix on the tragedy of Lucy's condition, slamming her back to square one every morning after she's slept off all memory of the previous day.
Okay, there are some nagging plot craters. Would friends and family really be able to pretend it's the same Sunday every 24 hours for a whole year? And wouldn't Lucy have somehow tripped over the truth regardless of the exhausting efforts to shield her from it? But what rankles most is that as the central romance really starts to glow, Segal and debut scribe George Wing refuse to give up the lowbrow ghost. The mammal-dick gags keep coming, while Sean Astin scuffs his Lord Of The Rings cred as Lucy's lunk-headed, steroid-guzzling brother.
Shame really, because there are moments to cherish here, such as the montage of our lovebirds enjoying their `first' lip-lock again and again. Or the bit where Barrymore pounds Schneider with a baseball bat. Now that's funny.
More rom than com, this cute'n'cuddly date movie soon flits from the mind. A notch above Anger Management. Several below Punch-Drunk Love.
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