Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Inexplicable Movie Review: 50 First Dates (and Sandler in general, and watch Airheads)

Note: Spoilers follow for 50 First Dates, which is a 12-year-old movie, by the way.

I really enjoy old Adam Sandler movies. There is something so wonderfully stupid and joyful about Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, so I can kind of understand why VH1 (of all places) seemingly has them playing on a loop. In both movies, Sandler plays an angry doofus, but there is still a playful sort of tone to Billy and Happy, respectively.

I’m not sure what the dividing line is when it comes to Good Sandler and Bad Sandler for me, but it’s probably right around 1998’s The Waterboy. That came out after The Wedding Singer, and it’s pretty much a one-note gag throughout the movie. Some people love it, but The Waterboy is definitely the worst Sandler movie to me, since it came out near his box office peak, as opposed to the sludge he’s churning out now. Big Daddy came out in 1999, and it was better, but it started the run of diminishing returns for Sandler Comedies.

50 First Dates comes out right in the middle of that run, in 2004. It’s a kind of weird and melancholic movie. It has the traditional weird and gross Sandler humor, like pretty much all of the running gags with Rob Schneider and Sean Astin as a steroid fiend, but the middle portion of the movie is strangely poignant as they try to work out coping mechanisms for Drew Barrymore’s character.

As a result, the movie kind of feels like a hedge between Sandler’s dramatic work (Punch Drunk Love, Spanglish) and his broad comedies. It’s perfectly fine, but I felt like they could have made a better film if they just went all-in on the comedy or the drama.

By the way, this movie definitely features Drew Barrymore at her best, whatever that might mean. Did you know she’s been in 67 movies? And yet, she’s only won a single Golden Globe, in 2010 for something on TV called Grey Gardens. She’s seemingly been content to just churn out romantic comedies and light action movies, but I feel like she’s got a Sandy Bullock-like drama run in her if she wants it. Like Bullock, I’ve never disliked a character played by Barrymore.(She's also good in Billy On The Street, as is Will Ferrell.)

An aside – The truly most underrated Sandler film is Airheads, from 1994. It features Sandler as a dumb-witted drummed, in a three-person band with pretty boy Brendan Fraser and angry bassist Steve Buscemi. Chris Farley, Michael McKean, Judd Nelson, Michael McKean, Joe Mantegna and Michael “Kramer” Richards are also around in strong supporting roles. It’s not as good as This Is Spinal Tap, but like that flick, it pokes fun at heavy metal / hard rock musicians while still being somewhat respectful to the subject matter.

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