Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language
Cast: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Kevin Nealon, Terry Crews, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Bella Thorne and Joel McHale
Written By: Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera
Directed By: Frank Coraci
The critics unfairly vilified Adam Sandler even back in the old days when he was making really funny comedies, but now their disdain for the comedic actor and his Happy Madison brand has reached a new level.
Blended, Sandler’s newest rom-com in which he pairs up with Drew Barrymore for the third time, is currently hovering at about a 15% fresh rating on the RottenTomatoes website. The thing is though, Blended isn’t really all that bad. The movie is a harmless yarn that means well, has a heart and offers a few laughs.
It seems like its come to a point where critics are afraid to give a Sandler movie even a middling review in fear of having their credibility tarnished. I’m not afraid. Here’s my middling review.
Sandler plays Jim Friedman, a widowed father struggling to raise three girls on his own. Barrymore is Lauren Reynolds, a divorced mom of two boys with an absentee dad. As the film opens, Jim and Lauren are struggling through an awkward blind date at Hooter’s and take an instant disliking to one another.
Through a series of convoluted events which will lead to even more convolution, the two accidentally swap credit cards and have to meet up once again to exchange them. It’s during their second meeting where Jim discovers that Lauren’s best friend Jen (Wendi McLendon-Covey) is dating his boss Dick (of Dick’s Sporting Goods). Dick had planned to take Jen on a vacation to Africa, but the two broke up and now the tickets will go to waste.
Without the other one knowing, Jim and Lauren finagle the unused tickets and find themselves and their respective children all stuck together in the same suite at the African resort. The explanation for their unwanted joint vacation makes very little sense – but I suppose this plot had to be set in motion one way or another – so as another Sandler movie would suggest… just go with it?
Once in Africa, the movie becomes a series of comic set-pieces, most of which are featured in the trailer – Sandler rides an ostrich, Barrymore has a parasailing mishap, etc. None of these events are particularly funny, most of the laughs come from offhand one-liners and the occasional sight gag. There isn’t anything along the lines of a big belly laugh in the movie, but there’s some borderline clever dialogue here and there that elicits a chuckle. Only, I’m hard pressed to remember what they were now.
The best thing about the movie is the winning chemistry between Sandler and Barrymore. More so than any actress he’s ever worked with, Barrymore brings out the best in Sandler and you can’t help but root for these two to get together. Barrymore exudes likability and she helps to make average scenes more engaging than they had the right to be.
Acting as the film’s Greek Chorus, Terry Crews shows up now and then as a resort entertainer who along with his backup singers updates everyone on the story and where the characters are at. It’s sort of a silly plot device, but the random and inexplicable appearances from the African band does get enjoyable.
For a movie about the makings of an unconventional family, the film oddly presents old-fashioned values. The screenplay suggests that things work out best for the children when there’s both husband and wife, mother and father in the picture. As Jim bonds with Lauren’s boys and Lauren does vice versa with Jim’s girls, the film seems to insist that there are certain life lessons only a father can teach his kids and others only a mom can. I don’t believe it was the filmmaker’s intention to make a statement pushing the conventional nuclear family, it’s more of a way to settle each kids character arc/subplot and make Sandler and Barrymore look like heroes in the process.
For eagle eyed Sandler fans, there are a couple of fun cameos of characters from both 50 First Dates and The Wedding Singer, hinting that all of these Sandler movies take place in the same Sandlerverse. Or better yet, Happy Madison Land.
Blended is very formulaic and predictable, but its also pleasant enough. There’s nothing ambitious about any of this – Sandler merely wants to give you a few laughs and have you walking away from the theater feeling good about life. I suppose it’s intended to be a family film, albeit one with jokes about adolescent masturbation, a teenage girl’s menstruation and rhino sex.
It’s a movie that your mom would describe as “cute”. That’s not a glowing recommendation for the irreverent lot of us (kind of like Sandler was back in his heyday), but if you can avoid rolling your eyes for 2 hours at the schmaltz and good naturedness of it all – Blended has its pleasures. Having said all that, I’m still holding out hope for a Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore sequel one of these days.