|Adam Sandler can play two characters: weird and not weird. In 50 First Dates, Sandler goes for normal (mostly) and like his first teaming with co-star Drew Barrymore in 1998's The Wedding Singer, his sincerity in the role is usually believable. Also benefiting Sandler's performance is the realistic chemistry he shares with Barrymore, without whom the film would run quite short on charm. And while the dialogue won't turn any heads, Barrymore and Sandler both seem to work past that weakness, accompanied by an enthusiastic cast.|
It is up to supporting actor Rob Schneider to establish himself as the necessary weird character of the film, because what Adam Sandler film would be complete without at least one slightly incomprehensible and insane performance. As "Ula," Sandler's friend, a Hawaiian with one white, foggy eye and a mess of terrible diction, Schneider is comedic without becoming an annoyance to the viewer. Strictly speaking, Schneider's comedic abilities tend to eclipse those of Sandler and they do more than once in this film.
What emerges as the annoyance in this film is not any of the performances or characters though. Rather, it is the weakness of the plot and the fact that the film seems somewhat longer than its respectable ninety-nine minute running time. The inherent difficulties in telling a story that involves repetition (Barrymore's character has severe memory loss that dooms her to repeat the same day, every day) aren't quite conquered by the screenplay or the performances because of two limiting factors: the usually limp dialogue and the actors' inability to spice up their plain words.
Lead stars Barrymore and Sandler are both capable of delivering healthy performances, but usually only with strong material supporting them. Interestingly, screenwriter George Wing originally conceived this film as a dramatic piece that took place in the American Northwest, but once the film was pushed into production, the story was taken into the realm of comedy, which is Adam Sandler's traditional and most successful genre.
With a dramatic and more serious focus, the film might have seen its dead spots disappear, though from interviews, the screenwriter suggested his story was much, much darker. If the story had been pulled more in one direction or the other (either toward the comedic or the dramatic), the plot might have felt a bit fuller and the movie overall would have seen less of the doldrums. Considering the fact that the filmmakers decided to turn the film into a comedy, it might have been wise to push the pacing that otherwise might not have been a factor in a dramatic piece.
Despite some soft spots in comedic effectiveness and plot development, the film shines in supporting performances, with actors such as Sean Astin (playing Barrymore's brother), Blake Clark (playing Barrymore's father), and Dan Aykroyd (as a doctor) handling the jokes well and existing as solid support to Sandler and Barrymore's love story. And since the most basic requirement of a romantic comedy is that the lead stars share believable chemistry with one another, viewers should feel satisfied with the casting in all the major roles.
On the subject of production values, the film benefits from its healthy Hollywood-sized budget of seventy-five million dollars and offers the viewer spectacular views of the Hawaiian coastline. Cinematographer Jack Green highlights the locale vividly and showcases well production designer Alan Au's island themed sets and interiors. Also well done is the pop-infused soundtrack which features island-hued renditions of several mainstream pop songs.
Having already proved their ability to create an entertaining love story, the re-pairing of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore seems to have worked sufficiently well for fans of the actors and general audiences. Viewers who haven't before warmed to Sandler's odd brand of comedy should find themselves decently entertained by his more sane performance while prior fans of the actor might find fault only from the areas of the film where the comedy isn't laid on as think as it probably should have been.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.