Forgettable flick


Issue: "Mel Gibson's passion," Feb. 28, 2004

In 50 First Dates (PG-13 for crude sexual humor and drug references), Drew Barrymore plays a woman with a short-term memory disorder: When she wakes up in the morning, she forgets everything that happened the day before. Adam Sandler plays a man who falls for her, but he has to restart the relationship from scratch every day.

It's a clever idea, with the potential for all kinds of romantic notions. He has to find a way to introduce himself to her, make her interested, get her to spend time with him. As she puts it, when she gets an inkling of what is happening, "You make me fall in love with you every day."

That should be a tender theme, about loving being new every day, about men winning their beloved anew, etc., etc.

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But although the movie tries to work up those touching sentiments, it is spoiled by tedious and unremitting vulgarity that has nothing to do with the main plot, thrown in apparently just for laughs that never come.

It appears that the filmmakers were after the mother lode of commercial success: Make a "date movie" that appeals to both men and women. Give the men Adam Sandler, greatly admired for his gross-out humor. Give the women a touching love story.

It is possible to make a hit movie by appealing to the primal but different emotions of men and women. One can combine a tender love story with a disaster featuring mass casualties (Titanic). One can combine a tender love story with epic battles (Braveheart). One can combine a tender love story with piracy (Pirates of the Carribean). But a hybrid of tender love story and gross-out comedy does not work well. Instead of the elements complementing each other, they contradict.

The unengaging personalities of the main characters don't help, nor do the implausibilities of the plot. (Why does her family also keep reliving the same day over and over again?) The Hawaiian setting is pleasant, and it is good to see that Sean Astin found work after Lord of the Rings, playing the body-building brother, looking much larger than Sam Gamgee. The solution to the memory dilemma is so simple that it comes as a surprise.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith


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