Monday, August 1, 2011

Ten Statements About....FIFTY FIRST DATES (2004)

Some sights...simply cannot be unseen...
"How is the cow?"
"Same as you. Every morning they have to convince her she's a cow.""

1) The thing that has always struck me about this film is even though it tries so hard to convince you this is a fun romantic comedy, there's something truly horrifying about it. As decent as director Peter Segal is as a stylist, he never gets away from what a sad existence so many of these characters have. It's like the flipside of Groundhog Day recast as a Kafka-esque nightmare.

2) There is a strange sort of disconnect in this script and its treatment of the Drew Barrymore/Adam Sandler chemistry. The reason the chemistry was there in The Wedding Singer was because Sandler was in his 'serious actor mode' as opposed to his 'angry man child mode.' While Sandler is playing it straight for the most part here, there are these elements thrown in to appeal to his fans that lessens his while the chemistry is still there, it's muted and obscured somewhat.

3) Make no bones about it--unlike The Wedding Singer, this is first and foremost an Adam Sandler film. All you have to do is look at the inclusion of all the grotesques in the cast--the hemophroditic Russian woman, the shark-obsessed, one-eyed handiman played by Rob Schnieder in his usual lack-of-talent style...hell, the film even trots out an uncredited Missi Pyle to suck a snifter bowl of liquor dry with a straw. Even though Barrymore apparently discovered the script, it's Sandler driving this project.

4) And while we're on the subject...boy, if you work on a Sandler project and he likes you, you're set for life. Do these guys who were in The Waterboy get work anywhere else?

Yeah, I remember when you sang for Drew in that other film,
too, Adam....
5) I am really curious to see George Wing's original script, as I suspect it was a lot more darker and didn't cater to its stars with a slew of throwbacks to The Wedding Singer--some of which, like the song 'Forgetful Lucy,' doesn't make a lick of sense in the context of this film.

6) I'll admit it--I think Blake Clark and Dan Ackroyd were very effective, mainly because they play their characters straight. That makes the laugh lines they do get all the more effective because you believe in the characters. Clark in particular is very good conveying the world weariness of Lucy's father, as well as the relief when Henry proves himself to be a positive element in his daughter's life.

7) That being said...there are times when all of the characters, including Clark's Marlin, behave in ways that only characters in a movie behaves like. As funny as the moment where Henry is singing along to a CD of 'Wouldn't It Be Nice,' a present from Marlin, while alternately crying and cursing the older man (which is, come to think of it, a throwback to 'Somebody Kill Me' from The Wedding Singer), the only reason it exists is so that there can be a big 'she remembers me' moment. Why Marlin doesn't just call Henry the second he realizes this and drags him over to the Institute is beyond me.

8) You know what, movie? You're not fooling me by giving all those 80's songs to modern singers to perform for the soundtrack. We know what earlier movie you're trying to remind us of.

9) The thing about Drew Barrymore is that she's not gorgeous, or even really beautiful...but she has a certain charm and all-around friendliness about her that makes her attractive...which may very well be why her romantic pairing with Sandler works whereas other attempts to pair off Sandler (Brooklyn Dekker? Fairuza Balik? Salma Hayek? Really, Mr. Sander? Really?) fall flat. These are not two impossibly gorgeous people here--these are two normal folks you can believe see things in each other other people don't.

Yep, it's a walrus...because it's not a Sandler movie without
jokes about sea animal genetalia...
10) Unlike with Forgetting Sarah Marshall--rewatching the former compelled me to rewatch this film--this film's Hawaiian setting could be changed up with any coastal city. It's Hawaii only to provide beautiful backdrops, and the setting is not used to illuminate the characters in the least.

Overall...a romcom that is hamstrung by two things--the general core horrific nature of Lucy's condition, and the way it doesn't want you to forget the previous, far superior film that teamed the two leads. Even with a couple of nice grace notes and performances, it's prolly not worth the over ninety minutes we're asked to spend watching it.

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