Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Movie Review - Fifty First Dates

Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore star as the leads in this romantic comedy, working together very well as they did in The Wedding Singer, though in very different roles. Barrymore stars as Lucy Whitmore, who in an accident lost her short-term memory but does not know this as her father and brother (Blake Clark and Sean Astin) have been replaying that day ever since so she doesn’t find out. When Aquatic Veterinarian Henry Roth (Sandler) finds himself falling in love with her, he thinks there must be a way around her medical status – but in the meantime, he has to make her fall in love with him afresh every single day…

Though it does have certain similarities to both films (in terms of the premise), 50 First Dates is neither a straight romantic comedy like Groundhog Day nor a thought-provoking thriller like A Beautiful Mind - it’s perhaps fair to say that it falls somewhere in between. While there is an element of romantic comedy (and there is certainly chemistry between Sandler and Barrymore), most of the humour is too crude or stupid to be really funny, and the emotional element of the film is much more effective. There are a few extremely funny moments in the film but overall the attempts at humour are more irritating than funny.

Sandler in fact plays his role very well, while Barrymore is as cute and gorgeous as ever, and portrays the hopelessness of her character’s situation very well. Astin is excellent as a lisping fitness freak who really should lay off the steroids, while Blake gives a sensitive performance as Lucy’s father. Rob Schneider is occasionally funny as Roth’s distant relative (though his kids are funnier) and Dan Aykroyd is criminally underused as Lucy’s Doctor. The animal actors are good too, especially the walrus, though one wonders if he will demand more fish as payment for his next film. In fact he has one of the best lines in the film, which is completely ruined due to poor editing. (You’ll know which one I mean when you see it, but to quote it here would ruin the moment even more than the poor editing will…) Overall the acting is good but the cast are hampered by a lazy script, which relies almost exclusively on gross-out humour and sexual innuendo for laughs – and rarely gets them. The way Lucy’s condition is dealt with is generally sensitive and there are one or two small surprises in store, even though in the main the plot follows the path you’d expect.

Apart from the one editing blunder mentioned above there was no obvious deficiencies in any aspect of the filmmaking – the cinematography, special effects (such as there were), and suchlike were all fine, though nothing stood out as being particularly good - apart from the scenes with the animals in, which were very well done. A film like this doesn’t need to have flashy production though, so “fine” is good enough.

It’s a very sweet film, which probably makes the crudeness of parts of it stand out in even sharper contrast. I just can’t understand why the filmmakers didn’t at least attempt to make the effort to create what could have been an enduring classic. Everything was right for it – an excellent plot premise, extremely talented cast, interesting characters and setting. In the end we are left with what is ultimately quite an enjoyable but disappointing film that has occasional flashes of brilliance to show us what could (and should) have been. Enjoyable enough if you’re a fan of Sandler / Barrymore (I fall into the latter camp), or if you’re looking for some light & fluffy entertainment, but not too much to recommend it otherwise.

Due to a little bad language and lots of innuendo it’s not really suitable for children (depending o the parents' attitudes on such things, of course).

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A much better Drew Barrymore film (IMHO) is Never Been Kissed, also starring David Arquette.

Apart from his appearances in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Sean Astin starred in the little-known but excellent sci-fi film Harrison Bergeron

See also my Review of 2004 Movies.

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