Short term memory loss has been all the rage ever since Christopher Nolan’s Memento jumped out of the indie world and into the main stream. Now Nolan is directing Batman (where presumably the caped crusader will keep all his marbles) while Hollywood’s short term memory loss obsession marches on, this time into a Sandler starring romantic comedy called 50 First Dates.
Adam Sandler slips comfortably back into pretty much the same character he always plays, only this time a little bit more commitment phobic. Henry Roth lives in Hawaii, affording him plenty of opportunities to avoid commitment by dating only here today, gone tomorrow tourists. But one day he bumps into a local girl named Lucy (Drew Barrymore) and is instantly attracted. Unfortunately there’s a pretty goofy catch: Lucy has no short term memory. Henry might hit it off with her today, but Lucy won’t remember him by tomorrow.
Despite that absolutely absurd premise, 50 First Dates is actually a sincere and sweet romantic comedy. Barrymore and Sandler have absolutely amazing on-screen chemistry. Director Peter Segal had only to be smart enough to wrap his movie around that and does. P.T. Anderson may have given us the very best work of Adam Sandler to date, but Drew Barrymore brings out something special in him too. Reuniting with his Wedding Singer costar has given Sandler back the ability to successfully blend together his typically juvenile humor with heartfelt sentimentality in a way that hasn’t worked since the last time they hooked up.
Granted, 50 First Dates still sports the usual assortment of Rob Schneider weirdness and other strange Sandler-movie-type characters. Personally, I’ve always had a soft spot for Sandler’s drunken penguins. Sean Astin popping up in Sandler’s cast of weirdos is a big surprise as Lucy’s brother, a seriously lisping roid-rager who flexes his muscles with comedic energy. I’m not sure Mr. Frodo would approve of this behavior from his Sam. All turn out a welcome bit of comedic filler in a movie that without them, strangely enough, could get pretty heavy. Schneider’s over the top oddity gives the movie a perfect balance.
Despite the above mentioned juvenility, 50 First Dates requires one of Sandler’s most grown-up performances as he struggles in love with someone who will never remember who he is. It’s an admittedly silly premise that’s handled with forethought and purpose. Set amidst the always stunning backdrop of Hawaii and carried along by perfect musical cues, Sandler and Barrymore have created a perfect date movie, filled with genuine romance and pitch perfect sentiment.