A film review by Craig J. Koban September 13, 2014



2014, PG-13, 117 mins.


Adam Sandler as Jim  /  Drew Barrymore as Lauren  /  Kevin Nealon as Eddy  /  Terry Crews as Nickens  /  Wendi McLendon-Covey as Jen  /  Bella Thorne as Hilary  /  Alyvia Alyn Lind as Lou  /  Joel McHale as Mark  /  

Directed by Frank Coraci  /  Written by Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera

BLENDED is twice as good as the last batch of witless and puerile Adam Sandler comedic ventures.  

Alas, seeing as I have given a majority of them – like GROWN UPS 2, JUST GO WITH IT, and JACK AND JILL - the dreaded zero star rating…that’s not entirely saying much.  

BLENDED is a bit softer on the edges than most of Sandler’s previous raunchfests (it contains very few gags regarding popping, farting, peeing – actually, there’s one gag with the latter – and other bodily functions), but its attempts at trying to be a would-be touching family dramedy and a potentially hilarious travelogue picture are pathetic at best.  BLENDED wants to have something sobering to say about the nature of parenting, loss, grief, and moving forward…but it does so opposite of scenes with CGI African rhinos screwing each other in the background.    

BLENDED marks the third time that Sandler has collaborated with co-star Drew Barrymore, as the pair previously made THE WEDDING SINGER and 50 FIRST DATES (still their best effort) together, the former of which was directed by Frank Coraci, whom also returns behind the camera for this film.  It could be said that the two lead stars have a tangible chemistry on screen together; they both seem to clearly like one another and enjoy working in tandem in these comedies.  Yet, the material of these films, BLENDED included, kind of utterly betrays them and their easy-going performance rapport.  The screenplay is so moronically lazy, pedestrian, and blatantly obvious with its romantic underpinnings that any sense of palpable surprises in the film are null and void.  For a comedy that’s already egregiously long at nearly two hours, the fact that you know precisely where it’s going within a few minutes is unavoidably frustrating.  It sucks even more when the journey towards its predictable conclusion is arduous to endure. 



The opening sections of the film, to be fair, offer up an implied promise that this will be a different sort of Sandler comedy…that is before it falls back on old Sandler brand staples.  A set of single parents, Jim (Sandler) and Lauren (Barrymore) end up on a blind date after a series of awkward meet cutes.  Actually, Lauren is recently divorced and Jim is a widow, but the manner that Sandler dryly plays the character you would never know this unless the script informs you of such a fact.  They are obligatory polar opposites, but they share a bond of living vicariously through the lives of their respective children.  Lauren has two boys, Brendan (Braxton Beckham), who has a somewhat sleazy obsession with his babysitter, and Tyler (Kyle Red Silverstein), who’s bright-eyed, but hyperactive.  Jim has three daughters, Espn (Emma Fuhrmann), Lou (Alyvia Alyn Lind) and Hilary (Bella Thorne), the latter one being a teen tomboy that’s frequently mistaken for a boy, so you just know that there will be a later scene in the film where she walks out in slow-motion – all dulled up and looking gorgeously feminine – to show the world that’s she’s really an adolescent babe.   

It a plot contrivance worthy of the worst kind of TV sitcom, Lauren and Jim inexplicably find themselves being afforded the opportunity to travel to Africa…to the same part of the country…to the same resort…and even sharing the same suite at the luxury hotel (what…are…the…odds?).  Of course, Lauren is presented as the borderline offensive female stereotype of the uptight and unsure of herself divorcee, whereas Jim is sort of the loveable, tubby, happy-go-lucky schlub that Sandler has played time and time again.  Needless to say, the more time the pair begrudgingly spends together at the resort with each others’ families and exploring Africa, the more they begin to form a bond and…and…you don’t need a narrative roadmap to know what’s next. 

Romcoms often make up for their formulaic material by at least infusing the story with two highly amiable characters that we latch onto, like, and want to see end up together in the end before the final credits roll.  BLENDED never truly makes a convincing case as to why we should really yearn to see Jim and Lauren together.  The film is D.O.A. when it comes to actually investigating the respective plights of these two parents and very little effort is made to fully explore that sadness of (a) losing a wife to cancer and (b) being divorced.  What’s worse is that Jim and Lauren’s children are essentially used for the purposes of cheap – and oftentimes cruel and unsavory – jokes at their expense.  There’s a rather unflattering manner that BLENDED exploits these young actors for the purposes of getting easy laughs and payoffs; they are less fully developed characters than they are one-note comedic punching bags here. 

A lot of the other requisite Sandler-ian elements make their way into the film as well.  Beyond obtrusive product placement – Hooters – check.  A witless and unfunny cameo appearances by a B-grade ex-SNL colleague of Sandler’s – Kevin Nealon – check.  Perfunctory Shaquille O’Neal appearance  – check.   You would at least think that BLENDED would attempt to atone for its more banal indiscretions by being a modestly enjoyable film that relays the natural beauty of Africa.  Welp…no dice.  BLENDED never really seems compelled at all to display what the nation is like on any credible or relatable level and instead opts for portraying the land and its people in mostly crude ethic stereotypes that feel woefully out of date with a modern day film.  Most of the African characters are, for the most part, sheepishly portrayed smiling servants and – in the case of Terry Crews – a constantly outrageous singer that parades around the film with a chorus group and sings ballads that comment on the character's predicaments.  Hardy-har.  In-between that we get some dutiful shots of African wildlife here and there…some really insipid greenscreen work that appears to insert Barrymore and Sandler into shots…and what we are left with is a portrait of a country that would barely fit on the front page of a bare-bones travel brochure. 

Again, BLENDED is not as, shall I say, inexcusably terrible and odiously offensive as many of the recent films on his resume.  Yet, it places about as much faith in the audience’s collective attention spans and intelligence as the worst of his past film catalogue; in short…not much at all.  The comedy is inert and lifeless and the drama that is awkwardly assembled alongside the infantile chuckles is sentimental hogwash.   Perhaps the film’s biggest sin is that it squanders the endlessly sunny disposition of Barrymore, who achieves the impossible here of being such a bright and spunky presence in a film that she must have known, deep down, was a unrelentingly wasted, paycheck grabbing endeavor.  That takes a special level of performance commitment.  

Everything around her, though, is in pure Sandler-brand coast mode.   

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