I suppose, after their success with the sleeper hit 'The Wedding Singer,' it was no surprise that Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore would be paired together again on the big screen. Certainly, they share a great chemistry, and however mismatched a pair they might seem at first glance, they are the kind of couple we want to see live happily ever after. So that makes it a bit of a shame that they picked '50 First Dates' as their follow-up vehicle to 'The Wedding Singer,' because even a couple as charming as them can't save a pedestrian, derivative script.
Sandler plays an aging lothario slash veterinarian named Henry Roth. His playboy days waning, he has settled down in Hawaii, and only wants to meet the right girl. Turns out she is Lucy Whitmore (Barrymore), who seems so perfect Roth couldn't have dreamed up a woman any better. Problem is, it turns out Lucy has survived a terrible car accident and now suffers from chronic short-term memory loss -- she can't remember the day before the minute she wakes up. Faster than you can say 'Groundhog Day,' Henry is stuck reliving the same day over and over to get Lucy to keep falling in love with him. With the help of a local stoner (Rob Schneider), Lucy's father Marlin (Blake Clark) and her lisping, steroided-out brother Doug (Sean Astin, a long way from 'Lord of the Rings'), Henry hopes to finally cure Lucy of her condition. But for Henry, happily ever after may always remain one day away.
What's surprising about '50 First Dates' is how tame it is. Clearly, Sandler was hoping to soften his image a bit, or at least find a vehicle that would again appeal to the female audiences that flocked to 'The Wedding Singer.' And indeed, his gentle side is a nice compliment with the effervescent Barrymore (whose character, alas, is rather wasted by the script). Yet, while I admire Sandler's risk-taking, I still felt there could have been a bit more edge to his comedy this time out. All the big jokes are left to the supporting players, especially Schneider, who has to deliver the kind of dumb, testosterone-fueled humor Sandler is usually known for. Schneider certainly overdoes it (but then doesn't he always?), though his scenes with various animals deliver the more charming if juvenile jokes in the film.
Still, '50 First Dates' ultimately gets by not being a complete carbon copy of 'Groundhog Day." I appreciated the way the story did not wrap up Henry's dilemma in the easy fashion I expected. Of course, this is not a dark film, and you won't really be surprised. But it was refreshing that the film's resolution is a bit more complex than expected. I kinda wish the whole movie took a few more chances as well, but if you are an Adam Sandler fan, you might enjoy getting a look at a slightly softer side to the comedian with this one. And '50 First Dates' is certainly a good Saturday night date flick.
Now, this is more like it. '50 First Dates' is only the second Blu-ray title I reviewed following the somewhat underwhelming 'The Fifth Element,' and I wanted to do a complete 180 in terms of movie genre and style. Happily, this transfer proves that the Blu-ray format can deliver a picture as good as anything I've seen yet on HD DVD. Granted, this is not perfect demo material and is not consistently great, but in spots, it really holds its own with the best high-definition transfers out there.
Only a two-year old film, '50 First Dates' of course looks clean as can be. The source material is in great shape, with no real grain to speak of, and certainly no dirt, print damage or other anomalies to mar the picture. Colors are also robust, with very rich greens and blues (even if, in my opinion, the film could have used a bit more pop in its visual style). Fleshtones are also excellent -- Drew Barrymore looks luminous, and even Sandler looks nice and orange. Contrast is also very good, which gives the transfer a very sharp, detailed appearance. This image possess real depth, and many shots deliver that kind of picture-perfect high-def image that leaves you feeling like you're looking out a window, not at a TV screen. Maybe '50 First Dates' is not shot-for-shot true reference material, but it does bode well for future Blu-ray releases.
(Note: As originally reported by The Digital Bits, some users have experienced poor image quality when viewing Blu-ray discs on the Samsung first-generation BD-P1000 Blu-ray disc player when connected via the deck's HDMI output. Apparently these problems, including decreased resolution and diluted color reproduction, are largely corrected when switching to the BD-P1000's component outputs.
It has also been confirmed that both Samsung and Sony are now aware of the issue, and the problem most likely stems from a faulty internal scaler chip in the BD-P1000. Samsung is reportedly working to fix the problem on future shipments of the unit, and also plans to issue a firmware upgrade to correct the problem on current players.
When assessing the transfer of any Blu-ray or HD DVD disc title, we here at High-Def Digest always compare the HDMI versus component output on every disc to detect any depreciable differences in image quality, as well as to confirm whether or not the Image Constraint Token (ICT) has been activated on a particular disc title or not (which would down-convert the component output's resolution to standard DVD quality).
If and when Samsung makes an official announcement of a firmware upgrade that corrects the problem with the BD-P1000's HDMI output, all of our Blu-ray reviews here at High Def Digest will be revisited to reassess picture quality. In light of the continuing problems with the Samsung, and given the fact that it is currently the only Blu-ray player available on the consumer market, some readers may wish to reserve judgment on this or any Blu-ray title until picture quality can be reassessed.)
Sony presents '50 First Dates' in uncompressed PCM 5.1 surround (a Dolby Digital 5.1 option is also included), and it is a bit better than the plain Dolby track on the standard DVD release. Unfortunately, that isn't saying too much, because '50 First Dates' suffers from rather unimaginative sound design, though that's typical for a romantic comedy.
First, the good stuff. Dynamic range is excellent and improved in PCM. This is a very warm, natural-sounding mix, with rich midrange and expansive highs. This is most noticeable with the film's score and the songs used in the movie, which have a very full, lively feel. Low bass is also surprisingly hefty, not that the subwoofer gets much of a workout (again, it's mostly with the music). Dialogue, too, sounds better on the PCM track, with even the most hushed tones easily intelligible.
Alas, the real drawback to this soundtrack is that the rears are inactive for most of the film's runtime. '50 First Dates' is primarily a dialogue-driven movie, which is fine, but who no inventive use of the rear channels? Aside from the occasional sound effect or a bit of bleed with the score, I usually only heard sound emanating from the front three speakers. Granted, what comes out of those channels does sound good, but I still don't know why romantic comedies get the short thrift when it comes to surround sound.
Another more-or-less straight port of the standard DVD release, this one has some but far from all of the features found on the previous version, namely a couple of featurettes and deleted scenes (at least that I could find on the disc). Though, admittedly, none of the extras on '50 First Dates' were tremendously exciting the first time around, it is still a shame we don't get the complete package here.
First up is a screen-specific audio commentary with director Peter Segal and stars Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Segal and Sandler really run the show, with Barrymore only popping in occasionally and sounding like a bit of an airhead. (It's gotta be an act -- this star-producer is no dummy, I'm sure.) Her lame interjections aside, this is still a fairly fun track, with lots of banter on silly things like the "adverse weather" during the Hawaii shoot, as well as various comedic stories about working with the fellow actors and animals in the film. Nothing earth-shattering here, but if you are a Sandler fan in particular you should enjoy this.
Next up is the pithy 5-minute "Talkin' Pidgin," which is a quick vignette on how to speak Hawaiian slang. Quite skippable. Much better is the genuinely funny blooper reel. Even if Sandler can irritate in 90-minute doses, he can be quite amusing if quick bites. Other funny bits include an outtake with actor Blake Clark bitching out co-star Sean Astin when he flubs a line (calling him a "little hobbit bastard"), as well as the supposedly innocent Barrymore swearing like a sailor. Worth a watch.
Note that like all of Sony's other Blu-ray titles, '50 First Dates' features the "Seamless Menu Navigation" feature, which is the much-touted ability of both of the next-gen HD formats to allow users to access a disc's extras in real-time, while the movie is playing and without interrupting playback. Funny thing is, I'm getting so used to this feature now that it feels completely normal. I'll even pop in a standard DVD, forgetting that I can't just hit the menu button during the movie without having to suffer through a bunch of clunky old static menus.
I sorta-enjoyed '50 First Dates,' but given the appeal of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, I couldn't help but feel a bit underwhelmed. Still, it is a cute movie and an enjoyable time-waster. Certainly, in terms of a Blu-ray release, this is comparable to most of what has come out on HD DVD so far. Great picture, good sound, and a typical port of the DVD supplemental features (even if not everything made it over in the conversion). Of course, '50 First Dates' is not exactly the A-list title that will get mainstream consumers to jump onboard the Blu-ray love train, but it does prove the format can deliver on the bottom line.