What if you had to make the girl of your dreams fall in love with you every single day? Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) a marine veterinarian working on the Hawaiian island of Oahu finds himself in just such a predicament when he meets Lucy Whitmore (Drew Barrymore). She's beautiful smart and funny but she has one tiny problem: short-term memory loss caused by a head injury she suffered in a car accident a year ago. When she goes to sleep at night all memory of the day's events are erased--including those involving Henry--and she wakes up the next morning thinking it's the same day of her accident. To make sure Lucy doesn't know she has this debilitating handicap her caring father Marlin (Blake Clark) guilt-ridden because he was the one driving the car and her brother Doug (Sean Astin) do everything in their power to keep up the charade reliving the day of the wreck over and over with her as if the accident never happened. But Henry's growing affection for Lucy--and his determination to win her love day after day--throws a wrench in their plans. It's a good wrench though because Marlin ultimately realizes he has to let his daughter try to live the most fulfilling life she can--and Henry is just the guy to help her do it.
Having displayed a natural affinity for each other in the hit The Wedding Singer Sandler and Barrymore are at it again in 50 First Dates. Their romantic pairing reminiscent of a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan or Goldie Hawn/Chevy Chase really clicks and it's great fun to watch them frolic on the beautiful Hawaiian beaches where the film is set. Sandler plays his sweet wisecracking easygoing self (he's much more appealing on the big screen than he ever was on Saturday Night Live) while Barrymore has the tougher job portraying the memory-impaired Lucy and no other comedic actress on the planet could be more convincing as someone who realizes she'll never remember anything but grabs the most out of life anyway falling madly in love over and over again. Of course Sandler also brings along some of his good buddies for the ride including Rob Schneider who does a hilarious turn as a native Hawaiian with many many children one blind eye and a kinship with sharks (he wants to write a book called Sharks Only Bite When You Tease Them). Astin does a 180-degree turn from his endearing Hobbit Sam as the steroid-ridden lisp-prone weightlifter Doug while Clark's grizzled charter boat captain who gives up his business to care for his daughter gives the film some of its more touching moments.
With Barrymore's Flower Films and Sandler's Happy Madison producing 50 First Dates definitely has a one-big-happy-family feel to it. Director Peter Segal who had a blast making Anger Management with Sandler is obviously very comfortable with his stars; the scenes come off so effortlessly it seems all he had to do is the turn the camera on and let them do their stuff. Segal also makes the most of his lush tropical surroundings but then how could you go wrong shooting in Hawaii? Even if the film itself is a stinker (think The Big Bounce) at least it'll look good. Yet for all the film's sweetness 50 First Dates has some sour spots including the gross-out bits (does anybody really need to see a walrus projectile-vomit?) and over-the-top characters (an androgynous aquarium assistant for example). The film would have been just as enjoyable without all the typical Sandleresque attempts to take things one step further than they should go.