‘50 First Dates’ is forgettable fare

Times Staff Writer

It’s only February, but the abysmal “50 First Dates” will be hard to beat as the worst movie of the year. It reteams Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, a charming duo in “The Wedding Singer,” but here either separately or together they’re just dreadful. They don’t seem to be acting but rather engaged in a contest as to see who can most consistently recite dialogue with a catch in his or her voice.

Sandler’s Henry, a marine animal veterinarian at a Sea World-type park in Hawaii, happily services vacationing hotties until he crosses paths with Barrymore’s Lucy, who has breakfast every morning at a seaside cafe. He strikes up a conversation with her only to discover the next morning she has no memory of him. Some months before, while riding with her father, their car hit a stray cow, causing Lucy to bump her head so hard that she has suffered permanent temporal lobe damage that has left her with severe short-term memory loss. Her loving father (Blake Clark, who gives the film’s only creditable performance), her steroid-popping bodybuilding brother (Sean Astin) and family friends have gone to extreme lengths to protect Lucy from becoming aware of her condition. In short, they relive the day of the accident, minus the accident, over and over.

Since she can’t remember Henry from one day to the next, Lucy is not exactly the best prospect for romance. However, she’s so pretty and sweet Henry just can’t help but pursue her; it’s a safe bet that love will find a way around a short-circuited memory.

When the film, written by George Wing and directed by Peter Segal, isn’t unbearably treacly about Henry and Lucy’s predicament, it’s gratuitously crass to a jaw-dropping degree, no small negative accomplishment in these times. Political correctness can obviously become a straitjacket for humor, but Rob Schneider’s Native Hawaiian is so relentlessly obnoxious as Henry’s best pal and Lusia Strus as Henry’s sex-starved assistant of indeterminate gender is so heavily ridiculed -- and both are so strenuously unfunny -- that it would not be surprising were their characterizations to spark protests. Astin has a likable presence, but isn’t the thickheaded, drug abusing bodybuilder stereotype a bit passe?

“50 First Dates” has nothing going for it -- and much going against it.



‘50 First Dates’

MPAA rating: PG-13, for crude sexual humor, drug references.

Times guidelines: The film’s crass attempts at humor, sexual and otherwise, go far beyond merely crude. Unsuitable as family fare.

Adam Sandler...Henry Roth

Drew Barrymore...Lucy Whitmore

Rob Schneider...Ula

Sean Astin...Doug Whitmore

Lusia Strus...Alexa

Blake Clark...Marlin Whitmore

A Columbia Pictures presentation of a Happy Madison, Anonymous Content and Flower Films production. Director Peter Segal. Producers Jack Giarraputo, Steve Golin, Nancy Juvonen. Executive producers Daniel Lupi, Michael Ewing, M. Jay Roach. Screenplay George Wing. Cinematographer Jack Green. Editor Jeff Gourson. Music Teddy Castellucci. Costumes Ellen Lutter. Production designer Alan Au. Art director Dominic Silvestri. Set decorator Robert Greenfield. Set designers James R. Bayliss, Martha Johnston. Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.

In general release.