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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 13, 2004

Barrymore and Sandler go Hawaiian in '50 First Dates'

• The real 'Ula' isn't much like Schneider's portrayal
• 'Dates' disc could have sparkled with real Island sounds

By Anthony Breznican
AP Entertainment Writer

Lucy (Drew Barrymore) and Henry (Adam Sandler) take their romance one day at a time. Every day they have to start over, because each morning all of her memories of their time together have disappeared in the new comedy "50 First Dates," filmed primarily on O'ahu.

Columbia Pictures

'50 First Dates'

PG-13 (on appeal), for crude sexual humor and drug references

96 minutes

Adam Sandler's new movie "50 First Dates" is a romantic comedy that has a goofy take on the question of predestination: If you start out from the same place, under the same circumstances, in the same state of mind, will your day end the same way?

The movie also has a gigantic walrus that sprays monstrous amounts of vomit on people.

That should illustrate the two forces at work in this picture.

Sandler, who often mocks his egg-shaped head, actually has some interesting and funny ideas rattling around inside that noggin, but he also has a tendency to surrender to juvenile jokes like a sleep-deprived, sugar-infused 12-year-old.

Luckily, someone seems to have given him a nap and a carrot stick. There isn't too much gross-out in "50 First Dates" — just a little, to satisfy the baser tastes in his fan base.

Sandler and company find a lot more honest and hard-won laughs in their premise: Drew Barrymore plays Lucy Whitmore, an accident victim who, when she goes to sleep, forgets everything that happens to her the previous day.

Her long-term memory is intact — she remembers her gruff dad (Blake Clark) and steroid-taking brother (the formerly plump Sean Astin of "The Lord of the Rings") and other details from her life in Hawaii. But every day is a Sunday, her dad's birthday, and she freaks out when she realizes that more than a year has passed since then.

Of course, she's OK the next day when she awakes, thinking it's Sunday, her dad's birthday ... Then it all starts again.

The truth is overwhelming for her, so dad and brother go along with her delusion — putting the same outdated newspaper on the kitchen table, eating the same kind of birthday cake for dinner and watching "The Sixth Sense" again and again and again each night — bored stupid, while she is always amazed by the twist ending.

Then she meets Henry Roth, played by Sandler, who's a veterinarian at a marine park and a notorious womanizer. He desperately wants her to remember him, and interferes with dad and brother's scheme, asking the salient question: How long can they keep this up?

"What happens when she wakes up one day and realizes she just aged 10 years overnight," he asks them. They don't have an answer.

The jokes come out of the different ways he has to win her over each day. The first time, he used a toothpick to make a door for a little waffle-house she made while playing with her breakfast. It charms her, and they hit it off.

The second time he tries it, she's unimpressed. "I'm sorry, are you from a country where it's OK to put your fingers all over someone else's food?" she snarls.

What changed? Nobody knows. But sometimes he wins her over, sometimes he annoys her, and sometimes — like when she wakes up in bed next to this stranger — he gets pulverized with a lacrosse racket by her.

The movie takes it's made-up memory ailment seriously and isn't afraid to take a few downbeat risks for the sake of originality.

There really seems to be no hope for Barrymore's condition, so instead of being a story about how Sandler cures her through love, "50 First Dates" is really about how one man learns to love someone even though she can never really love him back. After all, she has always just met him.

That's kind of sad, but these two likable stars — who previously appeared together in 1998's "The Wedding Singer" — make it very funny, too.

"50 First Dates," a Columbia Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor and drug references. Running time: 91 minutes. Three stars out of four.

• • •

The real 'Ula' isn't much like Schneider's portrayal

Rob Schneider plays the pot-addled Ula in "50 First Dates."

The real Ula

Siope Samuela Ula Lomu

Born in Tonga, the ninth of 15 siblings. He didn't speak a word of English when he and his family moved to Hawai'i in 1969.

Grew up in Kailua and was part of the first graduating class of Kalaheo High School.

Toured Asia and the Pacific playing semi-pro rugby as a young adult. His father was a member of Tonga's national team.

He's a rugged 5-feet-10 and 190 pounds.

His left eye was blinded by a blood clot after repeated injuries playing rugby. (Schneider's character has the same greyed-over, drifting eye.)

These days, Lomu spends much of his time coaching whatever sports his two youngest children might be playing.

"I coach everything," he said. "Little League, soccer, basketball. Everything they play, I coach."

To really understand what "based on" and "inspired by" can mean in Hollywood, take a look at the Hawai'i guy who inspired Rob Schneider's Ula character in the just-released "50 First Dates."

This writer thought he knew more or less what he was looking for upon arriving (a few minutes late) at Buzz's Steakhouse in Kailua.

After all, I'd seen the previews.

I was looking for a long-haired, one-eyed, pot-addled, stereotypically rural Hawai'i type. Something along the lines of a pidgin-speaking Cheech Marin circa 1976, or a seriously damaged Keali'i Reichel clone. But a quick scan of the place didn't turn up anyone remotely fitting the profile.

No biggie, I figured. If the real Ula was anything like the on-screen one, it wouldn't be surprising if he was a little, even a lot, late.

So I sat back on the outside bench next to a reserved, middle-aged Tongan gent, and waited. And waited.

After a couple of sideways glances, the guy on the bench finally spoke.

"Are you from The Advertiser?"

There you go. Lesson No. 1 in the magic of Hollywood: Expect the unexpected, even if the unexpected is reality.

The Ula I met, Siope Samuela Ula Lomu, is a soft-spoken 46-year-old concierge who is as much like the character Schneider plays as he is like Daffy Duck.

Nonetheless, Lomu insists that Schneider, the bug-eyed Saturday Night Live alumnus and "You can do it!" guy from several Adam Sandler movies, did a fine turn playing him in the film.

"I think what came across was that I love my kids, and that I'm a caring friend who is always willing to help out," Lomu said over an 'ahi sandwich and water. "He did a pretty good job."

If that was the point, then — applause all around — Schneider did in fact get it right. His Ula, while quite a bit raunchier than the real deal, is an archetypal, good-hearted local guy.

Never mind that Schneider is about the size of Lomu's left leg. Forget that Lomu speaks standard English, wears his clothes neatly and tucked, and doesn't actually smoke pot anymore, much less carry joints in the exposed crack of his rear.

"I used to smoke when I was a kid," he admitted. "But I've been clean and sober 14 years."

Oh, and if Drew Barrymore ever tried to smack Lomu with an aluminum bat — as her character Lucy does to Schneider/Ula in the film — you can bet he wouldn't run screaming into the hills, "Oh, Kamehameha!"

Of course, in Sandler's films, exaggerated humor and slapstick shoulder aside sensitive cultural representation (check out the bayou stereotypes in "The Waterboy"), and Lomu found himself written into the production primarily because he met Sandler's most basic requirement: He's good people.

Sandler, Schneider and Barrymore are regular visitors to the Paul Mitchell estate, a luxury rental property where Lomu has worked as a concierge for the last 18 years.

"I've gotten to know them pretty well," Lomu said. "They aren't like some other top Hollywood people. They're really normal. Drew is really sweet. Rob is a ham. And Adam, when you meet him it feels like you've known him a long time."

Lomu didn't pay much attention when Sandler said he wanted a character just like him in the film, or later when Schneider started paying particular attention to the way he did things. (He was not responsible for Schneider's pidgin lessons.)

"I really didn't know it was going to end up like this," he said.

But being portrayed on the big screen is pretty heady stuff for the unassuming concierge.

Though he wasn't compensated for his part in the film, Lomu said he's excited to be a part of something so prominent, and he's optimistic the film will cast a good light on Hawai'i.

"The scenery is really beautiful," he said. "It's what you would hope people think of when they think of Hawai'i.

"The movie also shows what local people are like," he said. "Adam said himself you don't find people like this anywhere else in the world. That's why he keeps coming back."

— Michael Tsai, Advertiser staff writer

• • •

'Dates' disc could have sparkled with real Island sounds

All right, Adam Sandler. I get it already. You have a thing for '80s music.

I got it with "The Wedding Singer," when you, like, did a whole movie set in an impossibly day-glo 1985 and filled its soundtrack with more Thompson Twins, Spandau Ballet and Culture Club than a VH1 office Christmas party. And I get it now with the soundtrack for "50 First Dates," which features a dozen great and not-so-great '80s modern-rock hits redone to a contemporary pop reggae beat.

I'll even forgive you for being so inspired by filming in Hawai'i that blanketing a film set here with reggae-fied '80s covers done by musicians like Wayne Wonder, Seal and Black Eyed Peas' Wil.I.Am and Fergie actually seemed like a good idea.

I understand, Adam. The marketing geniuses at Maverick Records probably told you that the kids who buy CDs wouldn't be down with a disc full of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, Makaha Sons or any number of fine Hawai'i-based musicians you may have heard while chilling at the Kahala Mandarin. But Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray doing a flat karaoke version of The Psychedelic Furs' "Ghost in You" with what sounds like a 1989-model Casio keyboard programmed to its lone "reggae" setting? Uh-huh — iPod owners nationwide were just waiting to download that one.

It's not that the "50 First Dates" soundtrack is particularly bad, Adam. It's just that it's about half as good as it could've been. As a soundtrack concept, the mod-rock-meets-reggae idea drifts into the abyss somewhere after the usually engaging Jason Mraz turns in a listless cruise-ship lounge cover of the Modern English classic "I Melt With You."

Cringe with me as UB40 replaces the creepy undercurrent of The Police's "Every Breath You Take" with by-the-numbers indifference. Make sure your copy of "Synchronicity" is safe when bored UB40 vocalist Ali Campbell repeats Sting's chilling "I'll be watching you" chant as if programming his VCR to tape "Joan of Arcadia."

On the positive tip, Adam, I did like a good handful of songs on the soundtrack.

311 doesn't come close to matching the sadness and longing of The Cure's original version of "Love Song," but offers a well-done cover reminiscent of the lovely sonics on their own "Amber." With a little help from that infectious hand-clapping that propelled summer hits by Sean Paul, Wayne Wonder and Lumidee, Wyclef Jean and Eve bring kicky new life to The Outfield's otherwise forgettable "Your Love."

Ziggy Marley wisely keeps his cover of The Cars' "Drive" rooted in the simple elegance of the song's music and lyrics, and rested on the ragged glory of his voice. Elan Atias' smooth Jamaican croon is matched with an even cooler chorus cameo from Gwen Stefani on a pleasant remake of Bryan Ferry's "Slave to Love."

Former Hawai'i resident and Eden's Crush member Nicole Kea turns in a somewhat tolerable cover of UB40's classic "Breakfast in Bed."

But trust us, Adam. Before you even think of a soundtrack full of '80s covers with a disco twist for your next movie ... please, stop.

Moby doing "I Ran (So Far Away)" with Blondie is something no CD collection really needs.

— Derek Paiva, Advertiser entertainment writer