Script review: 50 First Kisses

posted 5/7/03

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Cleolinda: ***

Screenwriter: George Wing; revisions by Adam Sandler, Tim Herlihy, Allen Covert

Date: February 10, 2003.

Production company: Anonymous Content, Happy Madison (Sandler's company), Flower Films (Barrymore's company)

Cast: Adam Sandler (Henry Roth), Drew Barrymore (Lucy Whitmore), Rob Schneider (Ula), Sean Astin (Doug?), Lusia Strus (Alexa), other cast TBA

Release date: February 13th, 2004

Imagine a combination of
Memento, Groundhog Day, and the upcoming Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, plus the sunny chemistry of The Wedding Singer, and you may be able to picture this one. Well, run it through the Adam Sandler machine first—this is the kind of movie that uses laughing penguins and a puking walrus as running gags. (The former will probably be really cute if done properly; the latter… well, I don’t truck with vomit gags, myself.)

The script starts out well, with a montage of Hawaiian aquarium vet Henry Roth’s tourist conquests; he always manages to send his vacationer flings off with ridiculous excuses (he’s married; he’s gay; he’s a spy; he…doesn’t have a phone?). And then we meet his friends at the aquarium: mansome Russian assistant Alexa, shark-bitten surfer dude/documentarian Ula and his gaggle of mischievous kids; vomiting walrus Jocko; and the laughing penguin.

(A quick note here: I was very disappointed to find out that Sandler regular Rob Schneider would be playing Ula, because I imagined him as a really hot stoner/surfer Hawaiian guy, not… Rob Schneider. Even though I read today at Upcoming Movies that Schneider is in fact half Filipino… I just really wish they weren’t going with smarmy and chicken-boned, you know? A girl can dream.)

So then Henry meets Lucy over breakfast (she builds teepees and log cabins out of her waffles) at Miss Pearl’s local diner, and they hit it off; she likes the fishy smell of his hands because it reminds her of her father and brother, fishermen, coming home. The next day, he sees her there again, goes over to see her, and offers to let her smell his hands again. Lucy, who does not seem to remember him at all, naturally thinks he’s some sort of freak. And this is when diner owner Sue steps in to explain the deal to Henry: Lucy was in a terrible car accident and lost her short-term memory. It’s like Lucy’s trapped in
Groundhog Day, only she’s the only one who doesn’t know it. Her father Marlin and brother Doug have carefully preserved the illusion that every day is Saturday, her father’s birthday, the day of the accident—every day they let her make a birthday cake, they watch the same football game (on tape), they open the same present, they watch the same movie—so not only has Lucy’s life stopped cold, but her family’s as well. At first this seems like the perfect girl for Henry—every date with her, as Doug puts it, is a one-night stand—but her family doesn’t take too kindly to his interest in Lucy. And then, of course, Henry finds himself falling in love with a girl who can’t remember him the next day.

It’s really a charming script, and a great character for Sandler to play: in the vein of his usual roles, but more romantic and less angry. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the sunny, free-spirited Lucy might was written specifically for Drew Barrymore. What I like about the script is that it takes a fairly realistic look at Lucy’s illness, even if her condition sounded a little far-fetched in and of itself—
50 First Kisses doesn’t hand her an only-in-the-movies cure at the last minute. Once the script has laid down the terms of her condition, it plays fairly by them. There is a section that starts to sound distinctly like Eternal Sunshine, though, when Lucy starts talking about wanting to “erase” all the souvenirs and scrapbooks of Henry that help her remember who he is from day to day, and Henry begins to struggle to keep their relationship; is it just coincidence that both films are being produced in part by the Anonymous Content company? The two are very different in tone, however; 50 First Kisses is a comparatively uncomplicated feel-good romantic comedy. At the same time, it’s much more complex than the usual Sandler fare, and that’s why I hope Sandler and his cohorts don’t Sandlerify the script too much more (the title page notes that revisions have already been made); rather than bend the story to the tried-and-true Sandler formula, Sandler needs to have faith in this script, because it’s a winner on its own.
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