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Warm Comedy du Jour 

Adam Sandler's predictably likeable in his latest--a surprisingly touching, if occasionally creepy, film.

I can just imagine the meeting where 50 First Dates was approved. Some schmoe walks in, kisses the hairy, ring-encrusted fist of a Hollywood mogul and hands him a written summary.

The mogul, who, like most of his ilk, is functionally illiterate, demands to hear the pitch. Trembling under the hot lights, the narrow-sphinctered writer begins, "Boss, I've got an idea for the new Sandler vehicle: It's a warmedy. You know, a warm comedy!"

"Oh, will there be walrus vomit?"

"Of course!"

"Then it's a go!"

Or maybe no such meetings exist anymore, and there's simply a giant computer that recombines financially successful old films into guaranteed future hits, taking two tablespoons of Big Daddy, a slice of The Wedding Singer, a dash and a half of Memento and a soupcon of Groundhog Day, mixing them with walrus vomit and allowing the cynical ooze to chill at sub-Farrelly temperatures until Rob Schneider appears as a sexually frustrated Hawaiian man.

In any event, 50 First Dates is clearly the work of many hands. Somebody wanted to make a touching drama; somebody wanted to make a funny comedy; and somebody wanted to see a walrus blow 132 gallons of vomit all over a sexually repressed German woman. And, of course, everybody wanted to make an Adam Sandler movie.

Sandler plays Henry Roth, a south-seas lothario who each year gives dozens of tourists wild sexual thrill rides and then dumps them to wait for the next one to appear. If you can believe that Adam Sandler is Romeo Casanova, then the rest of the film should be easy enough to swallow.

Since Sandler is a serial seducer, we're to assume he has a fear of intimacy. Since this film screams "romantic comedy" at the top of its walrus-vomit-drenched lungs, we can only assume that he will soon fall madly in love and want to commit himself to one single woman.

That woman turns out to be Lucy Whitmore, played by the fetching Drew Barrymore. Sadly, as a result of a car accident a year earlier, Lucy suffers from the fictional "Goldfield's Syndrome," which causes her to forget the events of each day when she falls asleep. Thus, she wakes up thinking it's the same day, with no knowledge of being hit on by a guy who looks horrifyingly like Adam Sandler.

Nonetheless, in spite of her inability to remember him, Sandler falls madly in love with her, and he spends every day winning her heart anew. One can only imagine that such a plot point would make even rocks and dirt and inanimate Republicans go, "awww!"

Although it also kind of makes you go "ick." There's something tremendously creepy about Sandler showing up wide-eyed and in love, and explaining to Barrymore that yes, though she doesn't recall it, she loves him too, so they should really be getting deeply and profoundly naked together.

This is actually the biggest problem with the film. It's surprisingly touching, on more than one occasion raising a lump in the throat and a tear in the eye of a certain jaded, soulless, inhuman film critic. And then all the sudden, it's creepsville. And then a walrus vomits all over someone.

Actually, only about a third of the jokes are walrus-vomit related gross-out sequences. Another third are corny misfires, and another third are laugh-out-loud funny bits. Combined with the touching warmth and the creepy sexual vibe given off by Sandler's constantly making out with an amnesiac, this film is perhaps the most self-contradictory thing ever produced by someone who didn't work for the president.

On the other hand, it's really never boring, which is an oddity in any movie made after 1892. And, in spite of the fact that what he's doing borders on date rape, Adam Sandler's character is incredibly likeable. This is actually Sandler's greatest asset as an "actor": People just like him personally, even when he's inducing a walrus to vomit on an innocent German.

Plus, the story of Barrymore's character is emotionally compelling, even if it's completely unbelievable. Especially touching are the antics her father enacts to convince her that it's always the same day. Blake Clark, who plays her dad, usually gets goofy comic roles, but here, he pretty much plays it straight and shows that he could have been a decent dramatic actor if only he hadn't accidentally befriended Adam Sandler lo those many years ago.

So is it worth seeing? Well, if you want to see a film in which Adam Sandler is so sexually appealing that the opening sequence features 14 women and one man singing the praises of his sexual powers, then sure, it's worth seeing. If you want tear-jerking drama punctuated by the vomit of aquatic mammals, then I can suggest no other film. If you want a plot that makes perfect sense, then I suggest that you have failed to follow the news lately, because plots that make perfect sense aren't even part of international politics anymore, so why expect them from ditzy romantic comedies?

50 First Dates
Rated NR

More by James DiGiovanna

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