Strangely, many comedies have certain issues with being
comedies. They either feel the need to compensate for the stupid
jokes by tacking on some trite, sappy, feel-good subplot or moral
or to compensate for too much romance and cheese by throwing in
some bathroom jokes here and there. Peter Segal’s “50
First Dates,” the latest Adam Sandler vehicle, falls into
this trap. The film tries to add juvenile humor to tone down the
sentimental-romantic-comedy feel, but the jokes just end up seeming
awkward and out-of-place when juxtaposed with all the cheesy
“love stuff.”

Beth Dykstra
Stop looking at me, Swan … you too, Walrus. (Courtesy of Columbia)

Yes, the film is ripe with sentimentality, sometimes
embarrassingly so, which is a shame because Sandler and co-star
Drew Barrymore have an undeniable chemistry.

Sandler plays Henry Roth, a commitment-phobic sea-animal
caretaker who exclusively dates tourists — that is, until he
meets Lucy (Barrymore) and falls in love with her when he sees her
constructing houses out of her waffles at a restaurant. Except
Lucy, and here’s the twist, has no short-term memory, so
every time she sees Henry, he has to try to make her fall in love
with him all over again.

Sandler is rather dull when he’s not sharing the screen
with Barrymore, with whom he exudes a rather goofy charm. The rest
of the time, he’s trying too hard to appear cute by acting
buddy-buddy with sea creatures or deep and sensitive with
Lucy’s father (Blake Clark, “Mr. Deeds”), which
makes the commitment-phobic jerk aspect of his personality
unconvincing.

Barrymore, however, projects a cute sincerity that seduces the
audience. Her mediocre acting actually works for her here, since
she plays a ditzy, but sweet, perpetually “out-of-it”
character. And she clearly feels very comfortable with Sandler,
which makes their romantic moments together seem natural and
genuine, despite the sometimes-ridiculous dialogue. The
“Nothing beats a first kiss” line is used no less than
five times — actually, probably more like ten — in a
montage of “kissing moments.” Every time is like the
first time, because she doesn’t remember the previous kisses.
Clever, isn’t it? By the end of the montage sequence, the
line, at first harmlessly cute, becomes vomit-inducing.

Segal’s choice of music saturated with swelling violins
and tinkling wind chimes to underscore these “touching”
moments doesn’t help the problematic dialogue. He should give
his actors more credit and allow the romance to bloom through their
interactions, not through sweeping music or trite exchanges.

But instead of tuning down melodrama to prevent the romantic
comedy from oozing too much sentimentality, the film tries to
divert the audience from the cheese by throwing in sight gags and
crude jokes. Humor about walrus penises or gender-ambiguous
co-workers gets tiresome pretty quickly. And why Segal thought
gratuitously showing Rob Schneider’s butt-crack would make
audiences laugh — instead of cringe — is just
mind-boggling.

The film, surprisingly, has some redeeming aspects about it
— the “Memento”-meets-“Groundhog Day”
premise, the chemistry between the two lead actors, and
Schneider’s endearingly daft, pot-smoking character (when
he’s not showing his butt crack). Unfortunately, these
qualities get muddled in the sickeningly sweet dialogue and vulgar
gags. Instead of comedy and romance working together to create a
film with both tenderness and humor, the two clash only to create
an unconvincing mess.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

 

Back to School

Adam Sandler’s past films as reviewed by Daily
Arts

April 2003

“Anger Management” Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

December 2002

“Eight Crazy Nights” Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

October 2002

“Punch Drunk Love” Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

June 2000

“Little Nicky” Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

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