Adam Sandler, reigning king of the Filmed Vacation, is back for another luxurious trip short on belly laughs and long on gooey sentimentality and familiar slapstick. The strange part is that Blended comes close to working, mainly due to Sandler and Drew Barrymore’s chemistry and her likability. The comedy mine field (what, you were expecting tasteful jokes about native Africans?) that is the first two-thirds of the run-time gives way to a third act that gels pretty well.
Sandler plays Jim, a widower whose wife died of cancer some years ago. He has three daughters that he’s essentially raising as boys (the running joke throughout is that no one can figure out their gender) and hasn’t been on a date in years. A blind date pairs him with Lauren, on the fritz with her do-nothing-with-the-kids husband, Mark (McHale), and mother to two boys. The date is a disaster and the two move on. However, through convoluted events that transpire in the blink of an eye, the two sets of families wind up together on a trip to Africa. And they’re not just staying at any resort. This one is geared towards “familymoons,” a special vacation for blended families. Can you tell where this is headed?
Blended seems to be pitched at kids, but most of the humor will fly right over their heads. After all, this is a film that appears to have used all of its visual effects budget on two humping rhinos. The humor and sequence of events are predictable to a tee (something “funny” happens, cue exaggerated reaction shots, rinse and repeat), but much like 1998’s The Wedding Singer and 2004’s 50 First Dates, Barrymore finds a way to elevate otherwise hum-drum material. Credit must also go to Terry Crews as an over-the-top resort singer who frequently appears out of nowhere. He garners as many laughs as anyone in the cast. Sandler, on the other hand, looks pretty tired here. Playing a man who has never recovered from the death of his wife, he appears to be just going through the motions and is as subdued as we’ve ever seen him. Then something weird happens. The families get back from the trip and the movie finds some solid footing in a crowd-pleasing and surprisingly grounded third act.
Perhaps the bar for Sandler’s films in the last decade has been set so low that one simply being watchable garners positive thoughts, but for what it’s worth Blended is his best film since 50 First Dates. Hardly high praise, but his recent output has been so bad that simply saying “Blended could have been way worse” basically counts as a compliment. Use this information either as a faint endorsement or a warning to be heeded.
Studio: Warner Bros.
Length: 117 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language.
Theatrical Release: May 23, 2014
Directed by: Frank Coraci
Written by: Ivan Menchell & Clare Sera
Cast: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Joel McHale, Kevin Nealon, Terry Crews