Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language
Written by Ivan Menchell, Clare Sera
Directed by Frank Coraci
Starring Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Kevin Nealon and more
Watching an Adam Sandler movie is like trying to find your favorite brand of spray-can cheese.
Even those of us who are fond of him admit the man hasn’t made a truly “good” movie in years, though we’ll quibble on exactly how long it’s been. These days, Sandler really only has two modes – stupid-sweet and eye-gougingly awful. There are some familiar satisfactions to be had in his stupid-sweet offerings, but you have to enjoy them for the limited pleasures that they are. The awful ones are best relegated to your landfill of choice.
“Blended,” unfortunately, falls almost exactly in between Sandler’s two categories, with sweet, genuinely funny moments alternating between jokes that land like a 2x4 to the face. It’s corny, ridiculous and flat-out wince inducing in certain moments, but there will likely be times when you discover you’re enjoying yourself almost against your will. Don’t feel ashamed. It happens to the best of us.
The plot, such as it is, opens with an epically terrible blind date between Adam and Drew’s characters. Seriously, it’s cringeworthy enough that I advise you to cover your eyes until the moment ends – you’ll be missing absolutely nothing but possible therapy bills.
Through a series of contrivances too absurd to bother going into detail about, the two end up sharing a trip to Africa with their various dysfunctional-yet-still-mildly-cute children. The hotel they’re in has devoted the week to celebrating blended families, and all of you will be entirely unsurprised to discover that the Sandler, Barrymore and their respective children overcome their differences and slowly start to bond.
Some of the moments are cute, though it’s not a good sign that the majority of those scenes don’t actually include Sandler. Drew is incredibly likeable, transitioning easily between goofiness and seriousness and bringing a dose of believability to the movie almost entirely lacking everywhere else. The actors playing the kids are also good, especially Emma Fuhrmanm’s surprisingly solemn, tender turn as Sandler’s middle daughter.
But then come the jokes. I won’t say that some of them aren’t funny, but it’s the kind of humor that’s normally best appreciated at 2 a.m. when you’re tired and punch drunk. Half the theater was roaring during pratfalls when I sat stone-faced, so perhaps I simply wasn’t tired enough, but there were a few moments where I found myself joining in. Admittedly, I was slightly appalled at myself, but that doesn’t change the fact that it happened. I laughed at an Adam Sandler joke.
In “Blended,” though, I mostly winced. This is lead-weight humor, with all the jokes appealing to either the lowest common denominator or so flat-out weird that half of your laughter is due to shock. Terry Crews turn as the hotel’s lounge singer that popped up in the most opportune moments was the most obvious of the latter jokes, and though it went on too long (and I could have done without the pec bounce) it at least managed to be interesting.
Sometimes, that’s all you can hope for from an Adam Sandler movie.