Slowly but surely, Adam Sandler movies are turning from in-your-face comedies to chick flicks. All of his movies have him chasing a hot girl, but the focus used to be on his zany antics, not his budding relationship with him and his female co-star. But after he hit it big with The Waterboy, you could slowly see the chick-flick aspect filtering into his movies (See: Big Daddy, Little Nicky, Mr. Deeds). His new movie, 50 First Dates, is the most blunt chick-flick he's made to date, and although it isn't too bad, I just wish we had the old Sandler back (See: Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore).
The movie opens up with a weird segment with a bunch of single women describing their trip to Hawaii, where they all have one thing in common, Henry Roth (Sandler) romancing them until they go back home. This is the way Roth, a local Hawaiian, avoids commitment, as we see in his first scene where he pretends to be a secret agent to get out of spending more time with a tourist. He's never dated a local woman, and never planned to, until he meets Lucy Whitmore (Barrymore). After meeting her at a local diner, and hitting it off with her, he decides to see her there for breakfast the next morning, and when he gets there, she has no idea who he is. He discovers that she lost her short-term memory in a horrific car accident so he decides to try and win her heart every day, even though she'll forget him in the morning.
The movie is a weird blend of Memento, Groundhog Day and any recent Sandler movie. It's Memento for her and Groundhog Day for him, which is kind of cool. The idea behind the movie is a good one, but it gets bogged down by Sandler. He plays the same dopey guy in all of his recent movies...ok, so he was the son of Satan in Little Nicky, but he was still a doofus. Basically, the only thing that changes about his characters in these movies is his name. In this movie, though, they try to make him into a "player" of sorts, wining and dining these tourists, one week at a time. But it just doesn't fit with Sandler. He still has the goofy nervousness of his previous characters and I can't see him as a ladies man in this type of character at all. His performance is O.K., but it's the same old song-and-dance we've seen before.
Speaking of the same old song-and-dance, Rob Schneider also plays the same character, a half-wit with either with a Cajun accent (See: The Waterboy and Little Nicky) or an islander/other foreign accent (See: Big Daddy and this movie). He plays a local Hawaiian here, with a slew of kids he's trying to control, to no avail, of course. He's not too bad either, and he has good chemistry with Sandler, as usual.
Drew Barrymore does a good job as Lucy, conveying her unsuspecting routine of having the same day over and over again very nicely. She's not really the cute, innocent, bubbly girl like she is in other movies i.e. Sandler's The Wedding Singer and she shows some nice range as Lucy. But my favorite performance is from someone who I wouldn't expect ina Sandler movie - Sean Astin. He plays Lucy's brother, Doug, a chemically-enhanced "bodybuilder" who doesn't know his own strength...because he doesn't have as much as he thinks. He is very funny, especially in conveying his lisp, and plays his role perfectly. It was nice to see someone different in Sandler's fold, and Astin did a great job.
And, of course, what would a Sandler movie be without the "actors" that I like to call "The Sandler Regulars" - Allen Covert (the "actor" roommate in Little Nicky) Jonathan Loughran (the lazy-eyed linebacker in The Waterboy) and Peter Dante (the quarterback in The Waterboy). They were all college buddies of Sandler and they're in almost all of his movies, but they're really not very good actors and are just there because of their friend. They've been getting bigger roles of late, unfortunately, but in this movie they all have very small roles, which is definitely a good thing. Speaking of bad acting, there is just an annoying performance from Lusia Strus who plays this man/woman thing Alexa. I don't know what to say, really. It was just disturbing.
The script, written by first-time scribe George Wing, is nicely crafted. It has a good plot with some nice character development and some very funny parts. But it would've been interesting to see what this movie would've been like if Sandler and Co. hadn't gotten a hold of it. The plot keeps you interested, with how he keeps trying to win her over, but it seems as if Wing's script was just a bare-bones outline for Sandler and his crew to run wild with.
Director Peter Segal has directed Sandler before in last year's Anger Management, and he's also directed Sandler's late buddy Chris Farley in Tommy Boy. Sandler makes reference to Farley in many movies, and, with Seagal at the helm, there are a few subtle Tommy Boy references here. It's just getting old... Segal is a good director, and he does nice here. But, like Anger Management, Segal is directing Sandler in a script written by a first-timer. It seems like they're just taking material and Sandler-fying it to fit their needs. I did like Anger Management a lot, but with this movie, it seems they were taking it a little too far. Maybe they just should've followed the old saying, and "stick to the script."
50 First Dates is a movie about falling in love for the first time...every day. It's a slightly-above-average movie with some nice humor and decent performances...even though we've seen most of them before. It's ironic that Sandler's production company is called Happy Madison Productions, after his first two movies Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison. It's ironic because, lately, he's been nothing like those two charaters. Sometimes, it's a good thing. But other times, I just wish we had the funny Sandler back, and not the corny Sandler.