The romantic comedy called 50 First Dates—starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore—ruled the box office. The movie, about a woman with short-term memory problems and a man who must win her heart over and over again, enjoyed its first week at the box office by grossing $41 million—the second-most-successful February opening for a film ever. (Alas, the record is held by Ridley Scott 2001 film, Hannibal.)
Mainstream critics argued after their dates with Sandler and Barrymore. Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) says Sandler "reveals the warm side of his personality, and leaves behind the hostility, anger, and gross-out humor." A.O. Scott (New York Times) calls it "a surprisingly graceful and, in the end, impressively daring romantic comedy." But Mark Caro (Chicago Tribune) says, "Sandler's movies always have combined juvenile humor with sentimentality, but the two rarely have seemed so out of synch."
Religious press critics were similarly divided.
Bob Smithouser (Plugged In) calls 50 First Dates "a stale cupcake of tasteless Sandler-movie clichés heavily iced with sweet sentiment. What could've been a funny Valentine upholding noble romanticism and sacrificial love turns out to be a crass, run-of-the-mill comedy aimed at 14-year-old boys fascinated by the noises they can make with their armpits."
Eddie Turner (Movieguide) praises "a wonderfully adept, sensitive performance from Adam Sandler. Audiences expecting just another crude, sophomoric comedy will get something with more substance. This movie's message of transformative love is not unlike that of Punch-drunk Love."
But Turner is displeased with the film's "destructively casual attitudes toward premarital sex and male-female relationships."
Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says the film is based on "a silly concept which is at times awkwardly handled. [Sandler and Barrymore] recapture the magic in a bottle that was uncorked during The Wedding Singer. But that magic alone isn't enough to salvage a weak script with poorly realized supporting characters."
He does, however, praise Sean Astin in his first big screen role since becoming famous as Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings. "His portrayal is broad, comical, and very funny. Other actors do not fare as well."
Annabelle Robertson (Crosswalk) is outraged. "It is hard to convey how awful this film is without sounding like my dog just mangled my favorite sweater ('Bad! Bad! Bad!'). The dialogue … is littered with sex talk, crass jokes and lewd gestures. 50 First Dates is filled with the kind of bawdy humor that gives frat boys a bad name."
David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) calls it "occasionally entertaining. Despite the on-screen chemistry of its star-crossed leads, the amusing premise is weighed down by crass dialogue and situations, making director Peter Segal's mnemonic melodrama hardly worth remembering. The film also promotes a casual attitude toward sex."