September 12, 2011

Queer Review: 50 First Dates (2004)

50 First Dates
Director: Peter Segal
Writer: George Wing
Cast: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Rob Schneider, Lusia Strus, Dan Aykroyd, Amy Hill, Pomaika'i Brown, Blake Clark

Among the most mature of Adam Sandler's films not involving Paul Thomas Anderson, 50 First Dates is an atypical romantic comedy that manages to straddle the line between sweet and raunchy. Fortunately, this results in one of Sandler's most enjoyable flicks, which admittedly, really isn't saying much, but I'll take it.

Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) is a Hawaiian veterinarian who targets tourists (mostly woman, but also one played by Kevin James) for romantic flings, knowing that any relationship that develops will be temporary. That changes when he meets Lucy Whitmore (Drew Barrymore), who captures his heart. Unfortunately, Lucy has a memory problem from a car accident that occurred over a year ago. This memory issue being, that outside of the present day, Lucy does not remember anything since the accident. Ultimately, this means that Henry must woe Lucy anew each day, while trying to get around her protective father (Blake Clark) and brother (Sean Astin).

The Queering
Most so called romantic comedies be they featuring straight or gay couples, such as Latter Days or Imagine Me and You, are almost universally bland and unimaginative. On the other hand, there is the raunchy sex comedy, a genre that includes such movies such as American Pie or Another Gay Movie and are usually aimed at hormone driven male teenagers. Those in the latter category actively compete with each other to see who can go the furthest and come up with the grossest, most envelope fondling gags.

However, there are a small number of films are content to not go to either extreme and as a result, manage to hit the equivalent of a home run, rather then getting stranded at first. 50 First Dates is one such film. Sandler and Barrymore manage to generate enough heat and sparks together, while the salty gags keeps the romance from becoming too saccharine.

Unfortunately all of this does not stop Rob Schneider from being his usually annoying self. Fortunately his caricature has just a small enough amount of screen time to keep this from being a big issue. Personally, I would have preferred it if there had been more attention paid to Alexa (Lusia Strus), Henry's bisexual assistant, as I found the characters androgynous presentation unusual and therefore intriguing.

On the other hand, I must admit to having an issue with Sean Astin's character, Doug, a Mr. Hawaii contestant obsessed with working out, taking steroids, and most notably, speaks with a constant lisp. I mean, fortunately there is a possibility that Alexa was a chick, not a dude (no one in the film seems to know) as I don't think we need another gay character who speaks with a lisp, as that is a really horrible and offensive stereotype. Seriously. On the other hand, there are numerous brief references to minor characters being either gay or transgendered, even the seals get in on the act at the end. For whatever reason, I actually appreciated these little throw away bits, brief as they were.

All in all, the enjoyability quotient is up and the homophobia/transphobia index is low (although not non-existent) making this a rare diamond in the rough as far as Adam Sandler flicks go.

Recommended. Might not be worth seeing a total of 50 times over, but once or twice won't hurt anyone.

The Rating


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