One of the nice things about the music of films is that, at the risk of stating the obvious, transcends the medium of film. As such, you can get some terrible or unremarkable films that can offer up interesting (and sometimes great) soundtracks, which can be something of a redemption.
Is it enough to redeem a trite Adam Sandler film that takes place on a beach? No. They’re soundtracks, not miracle workers. But that doesn’t mean that interesting approach to the 50 First Dates soundtrack isn’t a somewhat commendable effort to blend the interesting with the familiar, especially in a film that offered none of the former but boatloads of the latter.
Speaking quickly to the film, it was a pretty overt attempt to recapture the chemistry and marketability of The Wedding Singer‘s stars Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in a “The Bradys Go Hawaiian”-type spin. See also: Couples Retreat.
To synopsize the plot: Adam Sandler’s character persistently woos Drew Barrymore, who has amnesia causing him to have to start from square one in his efforts every day. There are a lot of painfully quirky cameos/small parts from actors that stick out like sore thumbs (Sean Astin, Dan Aykroyd, Kevin James, Rob Schneider.)
The movie is about as insipid as you would expect, compounded by the fact that it seemed so similar to The Wedding Singer in the way the starring roles were written. However, the soundtrack found a way to marry the familiar with an unexpectedly interesting twist, which was to take well-known 80’s songs, and have them covered by known artists with a reggae or ska spin on them.
The fact that this soundtrack EVEN FURTHER runs with the motif “The Wedding Singer….ISLAND STYLE!” is worth noting, but not really the point. The point was that more effort seems to have been put forth in curating the soundtrack, both with the performers and the songs chosen, than was invested in the film production itself.
Here’s the soundtrack:
Even in 2004, the artist list seemed pretty dated and random. Their cover of “Love Song” would prove to be the death rattle for 311’s production of relevant new music serving as their follow-up to the painful, painful, PAINFUL release, “Amber.” In fact, that song has nothing to do with this soundtrack or any movie, but I’m going to post the YouTube video here because it’s just SO BAD.
The further inclusion of a pre-Extra! Mark McGrath, UB40, and Wyclef Jean (who’s never come near an original song in his life) also seemed anachronistic at the time.
But less so for the type of people that would pay to see the an island-style reboot of The Wedding Singer. I mean, a cover of “I Melt With You” done by Jason Mraz for a film appeals to a certain type of person, and it’s reasonable to think that, for better or worse (definitely worse) that person would also be targeted by a film like 50 First Dates.
Even though the reggae and ska theme intuitively meshes with a movie that takes place on a beach, it’s always interesting to see the conceptual soundtracks wear thin for 12 songs in the context of the film. I mean, I don’t really know anyone that would be able to put up with listening to an album of bland ’80s covers done by passé acts. Frankly, it sounds like torture. In the context of the film, it becomes less so, because rather than have to listen to reggae at your cubical while working, at least here you have a backdrop that seems a little less juxtaposed.
However, the soundtrack only succeeds at being interesting in the context of the film, which isn’t a high bar to clear. It was a fairly inspired decision to take an entire soundtrack in this direction, but the tactical execution seems like an afterthought. It’s admirable to take a risk, but the virtue in taking a risk (even as one as low-stakes as the soundtrack for 50 First Dates) is only the pursuit of success. The producers seemed to stop applying themselves at the “risk” portion and didn’t follow through. This can serve as a parallel for many Adam Sandler films of the past decade or so – interesting premise, phoned in.
Like much adult alternative and adult pop these days, the final product is offensive only in its blandness. This soundtrack serves as one of those things initially seems harmless enough, but if you were thinking about breaking up with someone, and then happened to come across the 50 First Dates soundtrack in their car or apartment, you would finalize your decision that the relationship has to end. Or at least I would. But really don’t like 311 or Jason Mraz. Your mileage may vary.
Music is often ephemeral enough, and tying an album to a film (as all soundtracks do) serves to accelerate that process. A soundtrack featuring even the most bleeding-edge bands today will seem a relic in a decade, so the fact that this soundtrack used dated songs covered by past-their-prime artists no matter what the “twist” shows just how forthright the producers were pandering to products of the ’80s, offering up the songs of their childhood, performed by artists from their early adulthood. With a reggae twist.
When you put it that way, it sounds pretty desperate. It’s sorta like Kidz Bop for dorky honeymooners. And there’s your pull quote:
It’s sorta like Kidz Bop for dorky honeymooners.