‘Blended’: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore chemistry produces a stink bomb
By RICHARD ROEPER Movie Columnist May 22, 2014 1:02PM
Two brothers (Kyle Red Silverstein, left, and Braxton Beckham) face the possibility of new sisters (Emma Fuhrmann, Bella Thorne and Alyvia Alyn Lind) in “Blended,” a movie that gives each kid exactly one character trait. | WARNER BROS.
Jim Adam Sandler
Lauren Drew Barrymore
Eddie Kevin Nealon
Nickens Terry Crews
Warner Bros. presents a film directed by Frank Coraci and written by Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera. Running time: 117 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for crude and sexual content, and language.). Opens Friday at local theaters.
Updated: June 24, 2014 6:18AM
One of the many reasons I loathed “Blended” was its tendency to undercut any potentially sweet scene with a punch line directly to the nose of the viewer, as if to say: “Sucker! We’re not making a real movie here, what’s wrong with you?”
Case in point, and I’ll go ahead and issue a SPOILER ALERT even though the real spoiler alert is DON’T SEE THIS MOVIE:
Adam Sandler’s Jim is a widower with three daughters. Drew Barrymore’s Lauren is a divorcee with two sons. Jim and Lauren are set up on a blind date that goes spectacularly wrong, with golden comedic moments such as Lauren spitting up French onion soup (if it’s a Sandler movie, there’s going to be projectile something), and Jim guzzling beers and flirting with Hooters waitresses with names like Bubbles.
Stay with me, reader! We need a doctor here!
Cut to a few weeks later, when their respective families find themselves on vacation together, due to one of the most contrived setups this side of a one-and-done sitcom on a network you’ve never heard of.
After a schmaltzy moment between Lauren and Jim’s daughters designed to evoke tears, with Jim conveniently positioned outside to eavesdrop on the whole thing, Jim reacts by pulling a prank on Lauren, and laughing at her when she falls for it.
Any decent man would have thanked Lauren. Jim uses the moment to exploit Lauren. And we’re supposed to think Lauren’s ex-husband is the jerk?
Over 16 years, Sandler and Barrymore have teamed up for three comedies: “The Wedding Singer” (directed by Frank Coraci, who also helmed this film), which remains one of Sandler’s most endearing efforts; “50 First Dates,” which had its moments but was sunk by a premise so insane there was no way to rescue it, and now “Blended,” which is so much worse than the other two films it’s difficult to put into words beyond something along the lines of:
This is a clichéd, cynical, occasionally offensive, pandering, idiotic film that redefines shameless.
It’s a measure of the screenplay’s laziness that we actually have a scene where a kid looks up from the on-deck circle and is crestfallen when his divorced dad isn’t in the bleachers.
And then we get the scene again.
Each of Jim’s three daughters and Lauren’s two sons has been assigned one character trait. I won’t punish you by listing all of them, but for example, Jim’s middle daughter is named Espn, as in “ESPN,” because Dad works for Dick’s Sporting Goods and ESPN is his favorite network, and apparently Espn’s now-dead mom didn’t care enough to say, “We’re not calling our child Espn, you idiot.”
Oh, and Espn’s personality quirk? She carries on conversations with Dead Mom all day long, even insisting on Mom having her own place setting at dinner. Where’s the Long Island Medium when we need her?
Lauren’s children are just as disturbed, as evidenced in an early scene when one son sets a shirt on fire and the other sprays the fire extinguisher in the babysitter’s face.
Of Jim and Lauren’s five children, at least four are in need of immediate psychiatric help.
You don’t need to know how or why Jim and Lauren and their kids wind up on a luxurious African vacation, staying in a garish two-bedroom suite that looks like Hugh Hefner invaded Neverland. Or why Jim winds up riding an ostrich, and Lauren finds herself narrowly avoiding a collision with a rhino while Jim’s youngest daughter says “vagina” as a punch line, and not for the first time.
As for the African characters … are you sure you want to know? We have Abdoulaye N’Gom as Mfana, a smiling jokester who always seems one beat away from singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” and Terry Crews as Nickens, who dresses up in outrageous costumes and shows up with a chorus line of backup singers and dancers, commenting on the developing relationship between Jim and Lauren. Also, we see lots of giraffes and elephants and smiling, deliriously happy natives with seemingly not a care in the world. If you were to see this film and “The Lion King” and you had to categorize one as a documentary, the latter would win out.
Stupid misunderstandings, child actors overacting, blatant product placement, Shaquille O’Neal given about a dozen lines and that’s probably 11 times too many: “Blended” has all of that and less. Ms. Barrymore looks lovely and still has the ability to light up the screen, and every once in a while, we see a spark of something between her and Sandler, and we remember they had something, once.