Dir. Peter Segal
Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Rob Schneider, Sean Astin
I don’t particularly like Adam Sandler or his movies. Most films of his that I have watched have a tendency to make me wish I’d saved myself the time and effort. Billy Madison and Click have to be in contention for the worst film ever made (even if they are, apparently, not as bad as his latest effort Jack & Jill). His one saving grace is his breakthrough movie, 1998’s The Wedding Singer, in which he starred opposite Drew Barrymore. I will stick my neck out and say that movie is quite possibly the most perfect date movie yet made.
So I experienced a moment of trepidation before watching 50 First Dates. Would it be as poor as most of his oeuvre? Or would his reunion with Drew Barrymore create gold once again?
First signs: not promising. Sandler plays Henry, a commitment-phobic lothario who loves ‘em and leaves ‘em among
Hawaii’s tourists. He works in a water park
/ aquarium as a vet and has the requisite cute animals on tap – Willy the
penguin, Jocko the walrus and Mary-Kate and Ashley the dolphins. He also has
two annoying assistants – Rob Schneider’s scarred and spliff-toking Ula and
Lusia Strus’s manly Slav Alexa. Dan Ayckroyd pops up randomly as a doctor and isn't even funny. That's Dan Ayckroyd! Not funny! Frankly he was funnier when he randomly popped up as a naval intelligence expert in Pearl Harbor. The humour really depends on the audience
finding walrus vomit or, even more disgustingly, Rob Schneider, funny. Case
Except then something funny happens. Drew Barrymore appears as Lucy, a local art teacher. And almost immediately the film gets better. Adam Sandler, too, gets better. He actually becomes quite cute and romantic as he falls in love on sight and attempts to win Lucy’s heart. Over and over again. Because Lucy suffers with (the fictional) ‘Goldfield Syndrome’ – short-term amnesia brought on by a traumatic car crash. Whilst she can remember her entire life prior to the accident, since then her memories of the previous day are wiped out upon falling asleep that night. Essentially she relives the same day over and over again; her crusty but caring father (Blake Clarke), steroid-popping would-be body-builder brother Doug (Lord of the Rings’ Sean Astin), and friends at the Hakilau Café keep up this myth to protect her. This would be perfect for Henry were she just another one of his girls: “anything with Lucy is a one-night stand”. But he wants more, and because of this Henry has to introduce himself to her anew and make her fall in love with him anew each day.
So far, so Groundhog Day, except that Adam Sandler is no Bill Murray. But then again, Drew Barrymore is no Andi MacDowell, so it all evens itself out. Barrymore is a great actress, and I think this is all-too-rarely recognised. She has wonderful comic timing, but she also has a face capable of expressing every nuance of joy, or love… and of pain. She is the emotional heart of the film, and it is easy to see why someone could quite easily fall for her caring nature, her appalling singing, and her hobby of making houses out of breakfast waffles. She is fun and quirky. Okay, she's not Zooey Deschanel-grade quirky, but she's still quirky nonetheless. Henry’s increasingly-contrived attempts to strike up conversation day after day are comic; once he has won his way into her protective family’s affections they actually become quite touchingly romantic. If you have ever fallen in love (whether it is with someone you shouldn’t’ve or not) remember that first moment when you knew you were in love. Nice isn’t it? Now imagine what it would be like to experience that moment every single day of your life. This is what Lucy has. Every day realising that she is in love, that someone loves her, and knowing that she has a first kiss to look forward to. As she says, “Nothing beats a first kiss”.
The film’s heart is in the right place. Love is about wanting the other person in your life to be happy. Lucy realises that she is getting in the way of Henry’s dream: to sail his boat up to
Alaska and study walruses. And because she
loves him she decides to break up with him so that he can do that. And because
he loves her he helps to remove all references to himself from her diary.
Suddenly the film has gone from Groundhog Day to Eternal
Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I don’t want to spoil the ending – even
though it is kind of predictable in many ways for a rom com – but love, of
course, is more powerful than that. Sticking to the rom-com part of the story
the film is surprisingly affecting. Unfortunately it is surrounded by a load of
bad-taste humour – the ambiguously-gendered Alexa, Jocko’s vomit, Doug’s wet
dreams, any scene with Rob Schneider in – that would be better suited for a
different film. Cutting that out and focusing on the romance – and the
super-cute Willy and super-talented Jocko – leaves a much more enjoyable film.
|The star of 50 First Dates gives some acting lessons to Adam Sandler|
What have I learnt about
Well, first I should point out that the Hawaiian flavour is just an afterthought. Apparently the first draft of the script had Henry and Lucy being memory-less in
All that has happened really is that some Hawaiian phrases get thrown into the
mix and they talk a lot about pineapples. Man, those Hawaiians really love
their pineapples. And – if the menu at the Hakilau Café is anything to go by –
they also love their Spam and eggs. (But, ‘Hakilau Café’, eh? Well, we know
what a hakilau is now don’t we, thanks to Blue Hawaii?). And due
to this film I now know that aloha means both “hello” and “goodbye”, and
that mahalo means “thank you”. There is some humour dragged out of the Hawaiian language, as when an elderly Hawaiian customer translates his own internal monologue or when Ula solemnly makes a little farewell speech to Henry that
actually means “Bring me back a t-shirt”.
There are local characters at the café, so already we have more cultural diversity than in
And Nick the cook (Pomaika’I Brown) has some really cool facial tattoos. But
mostly all I learnt was that there is a regular stream of single, horny women
that come to Hawaii on vacation looking for a bit of no-strings fun before they
go back home. Book your tickets now!
Can we go there?
Despite the fact that I knew that a lot of the film was shot in
California rather than Hawaii I found it very difficult to spot
which scenes were Californian and Hawaiian. But in general the movie is set on
the eastern coast of Oahu, around Kane’ohe Bay (when Henry and Lucy are in the
carpark of the Hukilau Café after their first date there is a truck marked up
as belonging to the ‘Kaneohe Bay’ on its side). The café itself is actually
located a bit further up the coast however, at Ka’a’awa, on the grounds of the Kualoa Ranch (other films shot on the ranch include Jurassic Park,
Godzilla and some parts of Pearl Harbor. The same house features
in Tears of the Sun, though it is meant to be in Nigeria in that
film). Movie tours are available.
While the aquarium at which Henry works is meant to be the Sea Life Park in Waimanalo the scenes there – including Jocko the walrus and his harem – were actually filmed at Six Flags Marine World in
. Jocko is really called Sivuqaq.
Likewise, despite the fact that we see someone wearing a ‘Waimana Golf Club’
baseball cap, the golf course used in the film is actually the Ocean Trails
Golf Club in Vallejo, California . Henry does indeed
sail his boat off the coast of Rancho Palos Verdes,
California Oahu however.
That is, until the end of the film, when he reached .
But most interior scenes, including the Whitmore residence, were filmed in the
studios in Blackstone Bay, Alaska unfortunately. Culver City, California
Overall Rating: 3/5
Overall Rating: 3/5