Director: Frank Coraci
Cast: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Bella Thorne, Braxton Beckham, Emma Fuhrmann, Kyle Red Silverstein, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Kevin Nealon, Abdoulay NGom, Jessica Lowe, Terry Crews, Joel McHale, Shaquille O'Neal
MPAA Rating: (for crude and sexual content and language)
Running Time: 1:57
Release Date: 5/23/14
Review by Mark Dujsik | May 22, 2014
There are times during Blended when it almost feels like it's enough that Adam Sandler doesn't play a loud-mouthed jerk who keeps talking even while everyone around him wishes he would just shut up already. The worst his character here does is to joke that he assumed the husband of woman with whom he's on a blind date killed himself rather than put up with her for another second more.
We suppose the character believes she had it coming. After all, she dared to assume that his wife divorced him, given that he's the kind of guy who would bring a blind date to a sports bar where the main attractions are waitresses in tight-fitting shirts that show off the assets of their torsos and spicy food.
Instead, to counter her pointed and worthwhile question of which of his many flaws is the reason his wife left him, he utters a single word: "Cancer." Thus begins the movie's adherence to another go-to Sandler character: the melancholy buffoon. This character may be socially inept, too, but it's not because he's so damn angry. It's because he's so darn sad.
The angry Sandler character can be—and usually is—obnoxious; the sad Sandler character is more relatable but in inverse variation to how cloying the movie in which the character is featured is. Blended gets its maudlin streak out of system early with the introduction of not one, not two, but three daughters to whom Sandler's Jim has difficulty relating.
Hillary (Bella Thorne) is a tomboy with a bowl cut whom everyone mistakes for a boy (It doesn't help that her father calls her "Larry") in a running gag that starts to feel cruel pretty quickly. Espn (Emma Fuhrmann), whom Jim named after his favorite sports network (seriously), imagines that her deceased mother is still present, leaving chairs empty for her to sit and having nightly talks with her. She has the same haircut as her older sister and is also thought to be a boy repeatedly. Lou (Alyvia Alyn Lind), the youngest, wants to know what her dad misses most about her mom.
The underlying current here is that Jim knows he isn't enough for his daughters, but he also doesn't want to disrespect his wife's memory by looking for another woman with whom to have a new life. There's something honest in this, and it's as if Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera's screenplay decides to go out of its way from exploring that angle.
The movie goes way, way out of its way from the accidental meetings between Jim and Lauren (Drew Barrymore), the other half on that disastrous blind date who is divorced and has two sons. They meet at a convenience store, where Jim is trying to buy feminine products for his teenage daughter and Lauren is trying to find the right men's magazine to replace the centerfold she found under her elder son's bed and subsequently destroyed. They argue then come together then end up fighting again. Then he has to return her credit card, which the cashier swapped for his. They argue then come together then end up fighting again.
With the usual dynamic in place and after Lauren's friend Jen (Wendi McLendon-Covey) turns down a trip with her boyfriend, the two families end up at a fancy resort in South Africa, where Jim and Lauren get to argue, come together, and end up fighting again in a more exotic location. The screenplay makes sure we know they are really compatible in big and small ways. They share a similar philosophy of parenting, which doesn't seem too much of a stretch given their circumstances. There's even a scene where they discover they take their coffee the same way, and only in a generic romantic comedy would such a coincidence be given equal weight to the fact that two people believe their children are the most important things in their lives.
The good thing is the manipulative coincidences divert our attention from a lot of what's happening outside of Jim and Lauren's burgeoning relationship. Primarily, we don't think too much of how distracting the movie's random comic asides are. There's a scene where Lauren goes parasailing while on a safari, and the jeep runs out of gas. There's another where Jim takes one of Lauren's sons for a ride on an ostrich. An African chorus shows up at inappropriate moments to sing about what's happening. None of this makes a lick of sense in the context of the central question of whether or not Jim and Lauren will get together (Is it really a question anyway?), and very little of it is funny to one degree or another. These gags are obligatory. We've come to expect arbitrary wackiness in a movie featuring Sandler.
It's well past time for one of his movies to shirk our expectations in this regard because—despite the phony, put-upon cuteness—there is a fundamental sweetness to the scenes that focus on Jim and Lauren (That Sandler isn't insufferable and Barrymore is unstoppably sunny help a lot). At least there is when Blended doesn't play coy about their predetermined romance.
Copyright © 2014 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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