50 First Dates stars Adam Sandler as a womanising vet who falls for Drew Barrymore's teacher one fine Hawaiian morning. Only she has short-term memory loss and can't remember him at all the next day - so he has to woo her again and again, each new day providing a new, 'first' date. It's implausible, obviously, but this is entertainment not education and the spark between the stars and a surprisingly thoughtful screenplay ensures that, despite the odd gross-out misstep, this is a sweet, warm and funny romantic comedy.
The leads proved a popular pairing in The Wedding Singer, and again Barrymore calms Sandler's professional rage: his comic schtick, so grounded in inarticulate anger, is softened. He cruises through 50 First Dates with affability and ease - he's relaxed, he's charming, he's likeable.
Barrymore, too, gives one of her best performances. Initially so drenched in syrupy cutesywutesyness you may want her to tread on a landmine, she settles into a role which requires her to appears befuddled without being foolish, irresistible without knowing it. She seems at ease, back doing what she does best after the selfconsciously serious slog of Riding In Cars With Boys and the embarrassing grrrl power pseudo-sexiness of Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.
"CHARACTERS YOU CARE ABOUT"
The first 20 minutes promise a harsher, thicker picture than 50 First Dates becomes, with Sandler's androgynous co-worker (Lusia Strus) and roguish best friend (Rob Schneider) tools for broad, boring comedy (a vomiting walrus; base sexual innuendo). But while ill-conceived crudity occasionally surfaces again, there is a tenderness at the film's centre, an unusual sincerity for a studio romance.
These are characters you care about because their situation is taken seriously, developed with an eye on logic and sense rather than cheap laughs and conventional happy endings. Sure, 50 First Dates has the superficial ickiness we expect from Sandler, but underneath it has heart.