Blended

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Genre: Romantic Comedy 

Director: Frank Coraci

Writer: Ivan Menchell, Clare Sera

Cast: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Terry Crews, Kevin Nealon, Wendi McLendon-Cobey, Bella Thorne, Joel McHale, Abdoulaye N’Gom, Jessica Lowe, Braxton Beckham, Emma Fuhrmann, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Kyle Red Silverstein, Zak Henri, Shaquille O’Neal, Dan Patrick, Jacqueline Sandler, Jared Sandler

Running Length: 117 minutes

Synopsis: After a disastrous blind date, single parents Lauren (Drew Barrymore) and Jim (Adam Sandler) agree on only one thing: they never want to see each other again. But when they each sign up separately for a fabulous family vacation with their kids, they are all stuck sharing a suite at a luxurious African safari resort for a week.

Review: Blended would have been a far better movie if it focused on the romance between the lead actors, rather than trying to milk each scene for maximum laughs (and failing more than half the time). This is the third time Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore have been paired together in a romantic comedy, and the decade apart has not diminished the duo’s chemistry – in fact, the film works solely because of the strength of this pairing. Whilst Blended is a serviceable film at its best moments, there are a fair number of issues that plague the movie. It’s a far better film than Sandler’s recent output, but since we’re talking about movies like Grown Ups 2 and Jack and Jill, that is a really low bar to begin with.

Blended runs at close to 2 hours, running long for a romantic comedy that breaks no new ground. Much of this is due to a really extended expositionary setup, running over 40 minutes, to (over)explain how the unlikely couple and assorted offspring gets “blended” in Africa. Save for the disastrous first date (almost entirely played out in the trailer, unfortunately), this could possibly be one of the most boring lead-ups I’ve seen in any Adam Sandler movie. Things start moving along at a better pace once everyone is in Africa, but even then the narrative for the movie is very loose, with the rest of the film presented almost in vignette style. There’s a surfeit of subplots, and again nothing that hasn’t been seen before – the tomboy daughter, the son that needs a father figure in his life, the ex-husband that never really goes away… The list goes on.

Despite being filmed in Africa, there is very little actual purpose served by having the cast situated in the exotic locale. There are some scenes of the African savannah landscape and various wild animals, but the Africans are definitely given short shrift, seemingly present in the film only as serfs to the “colonial masters”. The worst offender of all is Terry Crews, who leads what seems like a sleazy African take on a Greek chorus. There’s absolutely no purpose served in all of his scenes, and they can all be removed without impacting the movie in the least. Crews is just part of the attempt to do comedy in the film, and while there are scenes that are amusing, much of it ends up falling rather flat. At least to Sandler’s credit there are zero scenes that involve farting, pooping or vomiting (ok there’s one pissing scene but it’s actually pretty tastefully done).

It’s a thankful thing that the scenes with Sandler and Barrymore do much better, and that there are a good number of these in Blended. The duo shares an easy chemistry, and the casual banter between the two are far more humourous and enjoyable than much of the forced comedy the audience is forced to endure. Barrymore may not be playing a very deep or complex character here, but Sandler is at his best when the two share the screen. It may not be the most obvious romantic pairing around, but it works. Though it’s easily the weakest of the trio of movies (the other two being 50 First Dates and The Wedding Singer), Blended remains watchable because of this, and amongst the testosterone-laden Summer action films, Blended should find a sizeable audience looking for alternatives.   

Rating: * * ½ (out of four stars)

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