Call me a sentimental fool, but 50 First Dates, which reunites Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler after their successful pairing in The Wedding Singer, actually worked for me as a romantic comedy, balancing some hilarious situations and characters with a tragic romantic drama where the girl suffers from a medical condition (yes, quite staple in romances actually), except that this condition isn't life threatening, but life frustrating!
Like Leonard Shelby and Sanjay Singhania in Memento and Ghajini, Barrymore's Lucy suffers from short term memory loss, in not being able to make new memories. She wakes up each day in Groundhog Day fashion, no thanks to her father Marlin (Blake Clark) and steriod-taking bodybuilding brother Doug (Sean Astin) who relive their lives day after day in the same day of her car accident (which led to the condition), and also with help from friends at a diner to recreate that perfect morning before that tragedy. And to Lucy, each day seemed like a brand new day, oblivious to changes around her, until she meets Sandler's Henry Roth, who intends to ditch his old womanizing ways, to spend the rest of his life with this new girl of his dreams.
So you can already see the problems here. How do you ensure you get remembered, by someone who cannot make new memories? For someone as commitment phobic as Henry, and to Lucy's protective family members, this is the kind of guy whom they are wary of, because it's wham-bang-thank-you-ma'am opportunities abound, and it's far more easier to take off without the victim knowing just who you are. Henry has that reputation of taking advantage of, and in quite comical fashion, shaking off his victims since they are all from various states, only that this time Lucy proved to be a little more than savvy in reproaching his advances, and therein lies the chase, the unavoidable pity, and the falling in love.
It's Memento gone romantic, and a touching one at that, with Henry having to be at his innovative best to woo the same girl all over again, to comedic effect of course with the multiple techniques employed, undoubtedly with Sandler being at his best without resorting to too many risque moments like his recent Zohan adventures, and Barrymore complementing his effort seamlessly with great ease and chemistry. As far as recent romantic comedies go, none seem to be able to touch this one in terms of hitting the mark with its comedy and bringing out those tissues for its drama, and despite being made some 5 years ago, it still packs quite a punch for fans of the genre.
If there's a little hiccup, that will be Rob Schneider's overacting as Henry's horny best friend, but that was balanced by the very limited cameo appearance by Dan Aykroyd. For scene stealers, look out for Allen Covert's Ten Second Tom, one whose exaggerated role of a man with an extreme memory problem providing enough wicked laughter at the condition. For fans of sea animals, there's enough penguins and walruses to tickle your funny bone as well, complete at times with complimentary toilet humour.
At its core for the die-hard romantics out there, I guess it calls for a lot of effort in trying to craft opportunities to speak to someone, be interesting enough to engage and hold that attention, and generally have a feel good time at the end of the day. Try repeating that day after day and you'll probably appreciate the extent of the kind of tenacity required. Although it sticks to formula after boy-gets-girl (which calls for tissues), nothing beats being rewarded for all the hard effort, and it's a good thing too that the narrative didn't get plagued by the usual Hollywood miraculous ending.
Oh, and don't watch this film before you watch M Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense, as it reveals the ending.
Review of the DVD to come soon!