‘Blended’ Review: The Sandler Bunch


Movie Rating:


Over the last five years or so, Adam Sandler has set his bar so low that movies like ‘Jack and Jill’ have felt like parodies of bad comedies. Things have gotten so dire at Happy Madison that when a mediocre rom-com like ‘Blended’ emerges, it almost feels like a revelation. From anyone else, ‘Blended’ would feel stale. From Sandler and company, it offers fans a mild sigh of relief.

I want to love Adam Sandler, I really do. His early work like ‘Billy Madison’, ‘Happy Gilmore’ and his comedy albums had a lunatic charm and joyfully surrealist intent that suggested a genuinely original voice emerging in the world of mainstream comedy. At the peak of his fame, Sandler even showed off unexpected depth in his Paul Thomas Anderson collaboration ‘Punch Drunk Love’. The guy has an undeniable talent and unique voice to back up his massive success, so I want to get behind him. However, his most recent blast of alleged comedies like ‘Bedtime Stories’, ‘Jack and Jill’ and the ‘Grown Ups’ movies have been so lazy, dull and uninspired that it’s hard to look for good in his work. He’s practically become a parody of his lazy persona and it’s been hard to watch, even for someone who defended him as recently as ‘You Don’t Mess with the Zohan’. So, while ‘Blended’ is far from a great comedy (hell, it’s only Sandler’s third best collaboration with Drew Barrymore), the fact that it’s even mediocre feels like a major improvement. The Sand-man might not have tried very hard on this one, but at least he tried at all. These days, that’s practically a miracle.

The film casts Sandler as a recently widowed father of three girls, which offers the actor a few fleeting moments of pain and tragedy in his performance. That helps immeasurably in his connection with the audience. Drew Barrymore co-stars as a recently divorced mother of two sons whose life is a series of frazzled panic attacks punctuated by moments of maternal bonding. If you’ve seen an episode of ‘The Brady Bunch’ before, you can probably guess where this is going. But not so fast! Their first date is at Hooters, and it goes as poorly as you’d expect. However, there’s no denying the chemistry between the actors or their characters, so it’s only a matter of time before that all changes.

A pretty horrible plot contrivance soon sends both families to Africa where they share a safari vacation specifically designed to bring blended families together. Given that’s the title of the movie and both parents have opposite gendered children to connect with before finding love, everything goes swimmingly between the rhino sex gags. Even so, the movie actually manages to thwart that connection briefly and not bring Sandler and Barrymore together because neither one feels comfortable looking for love rather than caring for their kids. It’s a surprisingly mature and unexpected twist. But don’t worry, this movie is far too conventional for that to be anything more than a twist. In fact, it’s all just set-up for one of the most tiresome parenting clichés: a father (or surrogate father) showing up for an important Little League softball game. Sigh…

‘Blended’ offers audiences an uneasy mix of the best and worst of Sandler comedy conventions. For every moment when Sandler and Barrymore charm the pants off the audience, there’s a gag-inducing explosion of sentimentality (normally involving one of the five one-note kid performances). For every inspired by of surreal silliness, there’s a base level piss or masturbation joke. It’s a frustratingly predictable movie, but ultimately a satisfying one, which is about the best you can ask for in a Happy Madison production these days. Barrymore and Sandler’s natural and palpable onscreen chemistry sells the movie. They’re a joy to watch as a rom-com couple, even if most of their solo scenes can be hard to watch.

As per usual, the sidelines are filled with cameos from Sandler’s friends, including Kevin Nealon and Shaq (who is apparently part of the Sandler rep company now for reasons best known to himself). Even though the flick is pretty base level in its approach to comedy, it has a couple of genuine laughs. In particular, Wendi McLendon-Covey from ‘Reno 911!’ and ‘Bridesmaids’ improvs a few big giggles, and the great Terry Crews delivers an insane all-singing performance that scores laughs purely through his unbelievably intense commitment to a stupid role.

‘Blended’ is ultimately pretty a dumb, clichéd and predictable, but frequently funny and charming little romantic comedy. That is in no way a major achievement, but given the particularly horrible standards that Sandler has maintained recently, it is a sign of improvement. If the guy could put a little more effort into his next production, he might even deliver something genuinely good again. Dare to dream, people. Dare to dream.

1 comment

  1. William Henley

    This sounds like a rental for me. I am mildly interested, and I love Sandler / Barrymore movies, but I just don’t see the point of paying to see romantic comedies on the big screen. If I do catch this at the theater, it will probably be at the dollar theater, but a lot of times, a movie is out to rent before the dollar theater picks it up, so I don’t go there anymore.

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