There are so many guarantees that we count on during our lifetime that we can set our expectations without question. For instance, outrageous national unemployment rates in a fickle economy. The Chicago Cubs not needing any extra battling for the preparation of the post-season playoffs in October. The latest pop culture interruption involving a Kardashian-oriented news-making update. And yes…another excruciating release of an uninspired and off-kilter Adam Sandler vehicle where fratboy frivolity meets manufactured schmaltz. In the latest Sandler-made conveyor belt of cockeyed comedy Blended , we are treated to a familial farce where lonely hearts (and regular on-screen collaborating cohorts Sandler and Barrymore) and their brood come together with all the precision of a hastily prepared peanut butter and jelly sandwich under the African skies. With Sandler and Barrymore’s signature romantic pairing and the concept bringing together different factions of offspring it is safe to say that Tracy/Hepburn or The Brady Bunch do not have to worry about losing any sleep.
Blended, much like a majority of Sandler’s one-dimensional cardboard comedies, is about as funny and welcoming as a root canal in an over-crowded shopping mall dentist’s office. Nevertheless, Sandler inexplicably has his avid box office loyalists that engage in the repetitive and nonsensical appeal of his pointless laughers that only serve to keep Sandler and his yuckster posse (read: Rob Schneider, Chris Rock, Kevin James, David Spade, the aforementioned Barrymore, etc.) personally entertained while selected moviegoers determine to soak in the mindless mockery from the sidelines. One can make the claim that previous Sandler-Barrymore projects in The Wedding Singer and to a certain extent the insufferable 50 First Dates had their moments of endearing gentle wackiness that registered with some charming resonance. However, Blended is utterly toothless and contrived and serves no other purpose that to conjure up another nostalgic showcase for Sandler and Barrymore to hang out and re-create some familiar magic within this regurgitated romantic romp.
Clueless clod in widower Jim (Sandler) and uptight closet-arrangement businesswoman in divorcee Lauren (Barrymore) decide to get together for a first date at Hooter’s (gee, how quaint). The get-together is achingly awkward as idiotic sports buff Jim would rather check out the scoreboard on the wide-screen TV as opposed to scoring points with a curvy and cute Lauren. Basically, Jim is a moron as poor Lauren sits there while tolerating his boorish behavior. It is regrettable enough that Jim brings the seething Lauren to an eatery where the knockout waitresses address him casually but to not have the class to pay her full attention is just downright rude. So the movie establishes the eventual couple as “opposites”-he’s a fanatical sports-loving slob and she’s a prissy princess that requires order and cleansing (glad to see how Blended found time to rip off The Odd Couple as well). Whatever.
Although it is clear that Jim and Lauren have no business canoodling in the first place given the mismatched personalities and chaotic backstories that they are both bogged down as the audience is suppose to go with the flow and accept the strained premise. Jim, a Dick’s Sporting Goods employee, is raising three tomboyish daughters that seriously need feminine guidance (this is what Lauren’s call of duty will entail) in Hilary, Espn and Lou (Bella Thorne, Emma Fuhrmann and Alyvia Alyn Lind). Specifically, Hilary is constantly mistaken as “one of the guys” as Espn (named after the sporting cable channel ESPN) holds discussions with her deceased mother and Lou tags along as the adorable little one. As for Lauren, she has her troubles with rowdy sons Brendan and Tyler (Braxton Beckham and Kyle Red Silverstein) and attributes their out-of-control mannerisms to her neglectful ex-hubby (Joel McHale from TV’s “Community” and “The Soup”). Obviously, Brendan and Tyler need some masculine attention (this is what Jim’s call of duty will entail). Both have close confidantes at the workplace to share some daily tidbits-Jim’s co-worker in the towering Doug (NBA great Shaquille O’Neal) and Lauren’s “Closet Queen’s” business associate Jen (Wendi McLendon-Covey from TV’s “The Goldbergs”).
Conveniently, an opportunity arises when Jim and Lauren take advantage of an accidental South African vacation package that gives them another chance to stomach one another as their children also accompany them to the picturesque Dark Continent. And so the “blended” families head to the “Sun City’s Resort’s Palace of the Lost City” where they will stay and develop the affections for each other. Sure, the ensuing high jinks build as Jim, Lauren and their kiddies indulge in madcap antics reserves for the various outings involving safaris, tribal dancing, animal attraction-theme parks and even back at the resort under the nose of amiable Mfana (“That’s My Boy’s” Abdoulaye NGom). Whether it is an embarrassing encounter with an erratic ostrich or clumsy-minded wind-surfing Jim gets his share of so-called comedic misfortune. Of course the movie has to deliver the intolerable presence of misinformed American tourists-in this case Kevin Nealon and Jessica Lowe’s Eddie and Ginger as the problematic parents of Hilary’s teen crush Jake (Zak Henri)
Blended was directed by Frank Coraci, the same movie mastermind behind a couple of Sandler’s “classics” in The Wedding Singer and The Waterboy). Screenwriters Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera concoct this woefully trite travelogue that proudly feeds on its eye-rolling banality. The comedic bits and sight gags feel so tiresome and forced. Sadly, Blended could have tapped into the goofy-minded sweetness and satirical nudging behind romancing individuals with static-clingy domestic issues. Instead, the hilarity is lazy and clunky and never achieves anything beyond the same old stale hiccup humor. Also quite insulting in this mawkish mess is the cringe-worthy stereotypical presentation of grinning and grinding Africans-something that might be reminiscent of the overt clownish caricatures one might chuckle at regarding the old Tarzan B-movies from sixty-something years ago. It is unsettling as it is with Sandler’s brand of disposable juvenile jocularity but the demeaning depictions displayed here is simply jaw-dropping and unforgivable.
This fetid family fare is partially redeemed by Barrymore as the anal retentive beauty playing straight-jacket to Sandler’s dismissive buffoonery. The welcomed pratfalls, crotch shots, vocal screeching and other Neanderthal nuances are supplied routinely by a grating Sandler. Most likely the youngsters will gravitate to the insipid Blended if only to relate to the exotic animals, the movie’s angst-ridden youths and the false belly laughs provided by the movie’s leading man-child Sandler.
Giving Sandler continued access to making one-note witless comedies year after year is the equivalent to applying a homemade stink bomb to a country road skunk’s carcass…it is a waste of time and it does not make much sense at all.
Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Joel McHale, Terry Crews, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Kevin Nealon, Shaquille O’Neal, Jessica Lowe
Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera
Warner Bros. Pictures
CRITIC’S RATING: * star (out of 4 stars)