Blended (2014) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language
Running Time: 117 min.
Cast: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Bella Thorne, Kevin Nealon, Wendi McClendon-Covey, Zak Henri, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Kyle Red Silverstein, Emma Fuhrmann, Terry Crews, Abdoulaye NGom, Joel McHale, Jessica Lowe, Braxton Beckham, Shaquille O'Neal
Small role: Dan Patrick, Alexis Arquette
Director: Frank Coraci
Screenplay: Ivan Menchell, Clare Sera
Review published May 25, 2014
Blended isn't just a title, it's also a strong suggestion. For those who can't stand Adam Sandler (Hotel Transylvania, You Don't Mess with the Zohan) and who are stuck going to see this because their significant others really, really want to, it's suggested that you have a a blended alcoholic beverage to get you through one of the dumber comedies you'll see all year. At 117 minutes, you better make that three or four blended drinks.
Single parents, Dick's Sporting Goods manager Jim and professional closet organizer Lauren (Barrymore, Music and Lyrics), are on their first date together at Hooters (as you can tell, the product placement is rampant in this one), both who've been out of the dating arena for a very long time, and neither particularly knowing how to do it well. Naturally, the date ends a disaster, and both are pretty happy to get out of there. It just so happens that Jim's boss, Dick, and Lauren's friend and business partner, Jen (McClendon-Covey, What to Expect When You're Expecting), are also dating, and when their planned trip to a resort in Sun City, South Africa gets cancelled, Jim and Lauren mutually buy up the respective share of the tickets that might otherwise have gone to waste. Hijinks ensue when Jim and his three daughters get matched up for dining and lodging with Lauren and her two sons.
Blended marks the third collaboration between Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, coming after the fan favorite The Wedding Singer and the genial 50 First Dates, both which contributed opening up the comedian to a female audience to his man-child talent. Sandler fans have regarded Barrymore as the one who fits him best, and so they'll likely be the ones who come away liking Blended the most, even though it doesn't quite live up to the quality of their prior efforts.
In addition to Sandler and Barrymore, Blended also reunites the two stars with director Frank Coraci, who directed The Wedding Singer, and who also directed the two of the rare Sandler films I actually give somewhat positive reviews to The Waterboy and Click. Although Sandler has been making some of the worst films put to celluloid, especially in the last few years, if there might be a chance at a comeback in quality, this one should be it. Alas, while it's not as terrible as his most recent efforts, it's a far cry from his earlier, more well-regarded (by his army of fans, anyway) work, and often feels like watching a handful of episodes of a substandard TV sitcom back to back.
Alas, while the stars do work well together, and there are vaguely funny moments here and there, Blended is a hopeless cause. Starting off with the ridiculous premise, it's farfetched enough that Jim and Lauren, who've never even heard of one another before their botched date, would work with two people, Dick and Jen, who happen to be a romantic item. It's well beyond the scope of believability that Jen would not know that Dick, a very internet-searchable public figure who owns a Fortune 500 company (Dick's Sporting Goods), has five children, which is the reason why she refuses to continue seeing him and calls off their African trip. But, even if you can swallow this, how in the world can you wrap your head around billionaire Dick, who has just been spurned by this woman who treats him like a pariah because he is a single dad, actually gives three of his seven tickets to Jen to do with what she pleases for no apparent reason? And if you can get beyond even this unfathomably incredulous act of generosity, that Dick would have the exact amount of tickets to sell to Jim and that Jen would have the exact amount to sell to Lauren.
OK, I'm not done with this yet. Jim and Lauren, of course, don't find out until they are in South Africa that they've bought tickets to the same vacation, but what's worse is that these tickets are for the same hotel room -- a room in which there is a honeymoon bed and lots of sex paraphernalia, and signs that Dick had been planning on proposing to Jen while on this trip. Really? Dick was going to propose to Jen and expect her to accept when she doesn't even know he is a single dad with five children?? Oh, and are Dick's kids really supposed to have stayed in their suite when it is so clearly meant to be a place where Dick and Jen are going to get it on in a bedroom that has a stripper pole and cherry-flavored edible panties?
Oh, did I mention that Blended is marketed to be a family-friendly comedy?
Once you get past the god-awful plot, there is the low-aiming comedy, much of it far too trite to truly laugh at -- spit takes and dads embarrassed to buy their daughters tampons and such. Believe it or not, despite some real wince-inducing moments of wretched comedy, there are some elements that manage to make the film somewhat tolerable. Coraci may lack for delivering great comedy, but he does have a knack for emotional and romantic moments, even if they are cloying and obvious, such as a sweet scene in which Jim and Lauren stumble into a couples massage and the two do show an actual chemistry together that doesn't feel forced.
The kids are very cute, even if their characterizations doesn't lend well to good performances, and the interplay between parents and their kids comes across as sweet and surprisingly tender. One can only wonder how much better the film might have been if Sandler didn't try so hard to get big laughs in every scene -- laughs that rarely come, and undermine the momentum of the warm underbelly of this romantic comedy. Such heartfelt scenes are always deemed by Sandler too uncomfortable for his juvenile and emotionally constipated audiences to handle, so they're undercut almost immediately by the sight of rhinos humping, Jim urinating, or some other sexual or bathroom function that suddenly comes into play.
Blended is made for only one kind of audience, and that is for people who like seeing Sandler and Barrymore together and have thrown their hands up at expecting Sandler to deliver anything approaching a good movie. As long as it isn't so-bad-it's-painful, it will be seen as a success in their eyes. While it is pretty painful from time to time, it's not an out-and-out fiasco, thanks to the likeability of the stars, who give lots of energy and gusto. It's a terrible film otherwise, and chock full of outdated stereotypes to boot, which goes to show how abysmal Sandler's comedies have been of late when this is considered a step up.
©2014 Vince Leo