50 FIRST DATES
Charming Movie Marred By Sex
Release Date: February 13, 2004
Genre: Romanic Comedy
Audience: Older teenagers and adults
Rating: Rated PG-13 on appeal for
crude sexual humor and drug
Runtime: 92 minutes
Distributor: Columbia/Sony Pictures Entertainment
Writer: George Wing
Address Comments To:Amy Pascal, Chairman
Chairman and CEO
Sony Pictures Entertainment
10202 West Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232-3195
Phone: (310) 244-4000
Fax: (310) 244-2626
Web Page: www.spe.sony.com
GENRE: Romanic Comedy
Although the movie has plenty of slapstick elements reminiscent of other Sandler movies, the relationship between Henry and Lucy is surprisingly sweet. Henry’s transformation from playboy to earnest caregiver is heartening. A wonderfully adept, sensitive performance from Adam Sandler drives this transformation.
If this looks like another typical Sandler comedy like HAPPY GILMORE or BIG DADDY, the impression is only half correct. There are indeed lots of crude jokes about bodily functions and body parts. The foul language is frequent but mostly light. Notions typical of romantic comedies inform the characters’ actions; for example, “white lies” are preferred to the truth, and affection is more powerful than morality.
Most disturbing are the destructively casual attitudes toward premarital sex and male-female relationships. Henry Roth is purportedly famous across the country for bedding women, and the secondary characters seem to always be scrambling to find an overnight bedmate. Although Henry changes this practice midway through the movie, it is never rebuked or regretted, making this movie’s message to young people a strongly negative one.
When Henry meets Lucy in a restaurant, he flirts with her like he might with any attractive woman. Her charm captures him, and he finds himself wooing her unlike anyone before. When he goes to meet her the next day, she thinks he is a stranger and gets people to run him out of the restaurant. It’s at this point that someone explains to Henry her memory loss. Instead of running away from the difficult situation, Henry confronts and embraces it. He gets to know Lucy’s family so that he can help them take care of her. He also develops methods to help her cope with her affliction, and he reorders his life so that he can love and care for her, forsaking his old ways.
Henry’s continuing sacrifice and effort for Lucy make this movie truly romantic and leave the audience feeling warm. Unselfish love for others is a strong part of the movie’s message, as Lucy’s father and brother have also committed their lives to helping Lucy. It is a demonstration that putting yourself first is unsatisfying and never worthwhile. Family is also exalted, as Lucy’s sticks close to her, and Henry gets to know them well before he pursues a relationship with her.
That warmth is what makes 50 FIRST DATES a nice surprise. Audiences expecting just another crude, sophomoric comedy will get something with more substance. Although the premise is extremely similar to 1993’s GROUNDHOG DAY, this movie’s message of transformative love is not unlike that of PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE, a movie in which Sandler gave a very subtle, beautifully sensitive performance. He is a little looser here, which accounts for some of the crude jokes. Still, that he could play such silly roles as Happy Gilmore or Billy Madison and then turn in a relatively mannered, controlled performance like this one is very impressive.
50 FIRST DATES has a strong emotional pull and is often very funny. The ending would be affirming to Christian or non-Christian audiences. Sadly, the rampant language and constant discussions of sex put a significant damper on this otherwise entertaining, satisfying movie.
Regrettably, however, this movie has casual attitudes toward premarital sex. There is an abundance of sexual innuendo and discussion, and some characters seem to always be scrambling to find new bedmates – a very negative to be sending young people. 50 FIRST DATES has a warm, strong heart with some redemptive elements and is often very funny, but is marred by frequent foul language and sexual elements.