Comfortable and Furious

50 First Dates (2004)

Given that I rented this film from McDonald’s of all places, I guess I shouldn’t have expected too much. There’s an iron rule somewhere that cinema and fast food restaurants rarely mix, and that is even more true when Adam Sandler is involved. During a long, painful career — one that has been nothing but a series of low points — Sandler has used annoying voices, juvenile songs, obnoxious narcissism, and a generous helping of product placements to kill the very idea that film comedy is possible.

Some have insisted that he’s made a watchable film now and then, and hell, he even worked for Paul Thomas Anderson, but I refuse to apologize for my belief that he’s never made anything but crap — hot, steaming, anus-pouring crap. From his shameless mugging to his insistence on playing characters who claim to be “loveable,” Sandler at least earns points for reliability. If I’m ever in a good mood and want to kill it quick, I rent his latest horror show. And hey, today was a pretty good day as I’m looking forward to meeting Bill Clinton tomorrow, but now that this film is over, the buzz is gone. When I’m done here, I just may drift into traffic.

Sandler’s latest Stanislawski creation is Henry Roth, a veterinarian (!) who lives in Hawaii and, predictably, is an irresistible playboy. It stands to reason, after all, since he is incapable of talking about anything but himself and even then, merely throws out lame jokes and even worse attempts at charm. He’s a player, see, and as such does not want to commit to anyone. Therefore, he sleeps only with vacationing hotties, as a native could cause untold complications.

But fall for a native he does, in the form of Lucy (Drew Barrymore), a clueless nimrod who just happens to have brain damage from a freak accident (her father crashed the car while trying to avoid a cow). The head injury has destroyed her short-term memory, so when she goes to sleep at night, she forgets everything that she has done that day. To ease the pain, Lucy’s father lets her relive the same day over and over, a 24-hour period that seems to involve nothing else but eating breakfast, watching The Sixth Sense, and eating birthday cake. And then came Henry. And how.

The initial meet-cute is at Lucy’s favorite restaurant, where she orders waffles and proceeds to build a “waffle house.” Ain’t she darling? But apparently that’s enough for Henry, as he is instantly smitten by a grown woman who plays with her food. Henry spends a great day with Lucy, not knowing her condition, and is shocked when he is treated rudely the next day. So, Henry learns the truth, vows to win her heart, and proceeds to set-up a meeting every single day so that at the very least, he can be happy for a short time.

Yes, friends, it’s Groundhog Day. Only I’d rather watch Bill Murray eat his own feces than Sandler even attempt to woo a woman. For the next twenty minutes at least, Henry stages accidents, pretends to be a kidnapping victim, poses as a member of a road crew, and pretty much wastes our fucking time by not realizing that in order to have her, all he has to do is exactly what he did the first time! But that would require common sense, and then we wouldn’t have the added treat of watching Lucy nearly run over Henry’s pet penguin or her beating the shit out of Rob Schneider with a baseball bat.

Speaking of Schneider, we are asked to accept him as an island native, complete with goofy accent and pounds of bronzer. If Rob isn’t the most annoying “actor” in Hollywood, he’s at least vying for second. I guess Rob and Adam are buddies, which means we have to watch what are the equivalent of their home movies. At least they’re having fun. Wait, no, at most they’re having fun. There’s also a German woman (who could be a man, but does utter, “I prefer sausage to taco”), who also has a ridiculous accent and is of course nasty and revolting.

And yes, even Sean Astin makes an appearance, playing a homoerotic fitness fanatic who just happens to talk with a lisp. Sandler films usually carry the same bag of tricks from shoot to shoot, but a character with a speech impediment is arguably the most predictable item on the list. Astin is, I’m guessing, supposed to be a comic highlight, but he’s all hairy and sweaty, which is exactly how the LOTR fanboys like him. There’s also a guided tour through a brain injury ward, where we get to meet hysterical folks like “Ten Second Tom,” a poor guy who only has enough time to introduce himself before his mind slips away once again. Dan Ackroyd even shows up for a guest appearance, improbably playing a doctor, which may or may not be more unlikely than Sandler’s turn as a vet.

Henry uses more gimmicks to win Lucy’s heart, including making a tape of the day’s events so that there won’t be as much of a shock in the morning. Lucy also keeps a diary so that she can have some semblance of a relationship. This turn of events leads to what Roger Ebert referred to as the “semi-obligatory lyrical interlude,” where Henry and Lucy walk, kiss, engage in horseplay, and stare at the ocean, all while romantic tunes play on the soundtrack. It’s all wonderfully nauseating. Eventually, they fall in love, Henry pops the question, Lucy accepts, and then……..Lucy decides she can’t hold Henry back from his dream of spending a year at sea studying the underwater behavior of the walrus, so she burns her diary, destroys the tape, and vows to put Henry behind her.

Then, using words I’ve always wanted to scream at Sandler myself while wielding a butcher knife, she says, “My plan is to erase you completely, so it’s as if you never existed.” And despite the fact that Henry prepares for his voyage and Lucy checks in to the hospital, they do come together in the end, thanks to Lucy’s father and a well-placed Beach Boys CD. Lucy isn’t cured, but life does go on, and as the film ends, we see the whole family on Henry’s boat, complete with a young child. He did love her after all! What a sweetheart! I guess you need something to bring in the chicks.

Before I leave you, perhaps never to return, let me remind you that this film made over $120 million at the box office. And Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime — I know, I know. It’s all so terribly obscene. But there’s still hope: I hear Sandler’s appearing in a remake of The Longest Yard. Yeah, it’s been nice.