While I admit that Adam Sandler’s recent movies were subpar (Grown Ups 2, That’s My Boy, Jack and Jill), the decision to team up with Hollywood sweetheart Drew Barrymore for the third time for this family comedy was a great way to get back to the fans’ good graces. While hugely massacred by critics, Blended brought me a lot of laughs and I thought it was really cute. Incidentally, the movie is also a reunion of sorts with director Frank Coraci, who directed their first movie (The Wedding Singer).
Jim (Sandler) is a widower trying to do right with raising his three daughters Hilary aka Larry (Bella Thorne), Espn, named after sports network ESPN (Emma Fuhrmann) and Lou (Alyvia Lind’s) while Lauren (Barrymore) is a divorcee who juggles managing her business with dealing with her two energetic boys — Brendan (Braxton Beckham) and Tyler (Kyle Silverstein) . The two don’t necessarily hit it off during their blind date but fate has a surprise in store for them as they find out that Jim’s boss and Laura’s friend Jen, who are dating, will not be using their familymoon tickets to Africa. Sensing an opportunity, Jim buys his boss’s tickets while Laura does the same for Jen. While on the trip, the two families discover that they may be blending together better than they think.
Adam and Drew may have worked together before on The Wedding Singer (which I have seen about 10 times) and 50 First Dates (which I saw roughly four or five), but Blended offers something different from the first two movies because they are now playing characters with kids. The semi-serious widower role may be a bit of a change for Adam at first, and so is the harried mother of two character for Drew but these two know how to seize opportunity when they see it. At first, their scenes seem a bit awkward and forced, but as the movie chugged along, they found their rapport and gained momentum, reminding audiences why they are such a powerhouse together.
I liked that Adam dialed down the juvenile and crass humor for this family flick. I think that its even more wholesome than Just Go With It, and that’s a good thing. I liked that more than Adam and Drew, the kids are given great moments to shine because each one has their own appeal that endears them to the audience. I was laughing so hard at tomboy Larry trying to catch the eye of her crush Jake (Zak Henri) by busting out her dance moves in the hard court. Also, little Lou’s change of heart in the girl’s bathroom when she saw that her dad made her up like a Walking Dead, and her subsequent Linda Blair moments were so adorable. The movie certainly highlighted the difficulties of solo parenting and dealing with kids of certain age.
There were a lot of great moments with the kids in all, and the supporting characters were also nothing to scoff at — kudos to Shaquille O’Neill who played Jim’s work buddy and Terry Crews who played the lead vocalist of the tattoos, the official lounge/pool/gym singers of the Sun City Luxury Hotel. But I was really charmed by the resort’s incompetent security director and well meaning activities director. They were both hilarious in varying degrees.
The film had a lot going for it and while the idea or the outcome may be a mass of cliches and cheesiness, there is a certain sweetness to the idea of finding family and friendship (Eddy and Ginger) in people you don’t expect. While some of the characters were outrageous, they were more likeable than annoying. While they pushed the idea of being blended too hard, it became funny rather than tedious. While the dramatic ideas in the film were not new, they became more endearing than played out, because there was a strong cast behind the production. The film showcasing the beauty of Africa in a fun and wholesome way was also a great inspiration to travelers like myself and a fitting tribute the majesty of the place.
All in all, kudos to the Blended team for a strongly blended outcome. It was clear on its target market so it did not border on buddy comedy territory. It created characters, both young and not so young who were fun to watch — and very relatable to a variety of viewers to boot. While the film was not entirely perfect, it had a few missteps (something stupid is always a staple in an Adam Sandler movie after all) along the way but negligible enough not to ruin the audience’s good time. It was bordered on stereotype, but at the end of the day, it still had a little something for everybody. It set out to be a feel good movie and for the most part, it turned out that way. Despite not being the best of the Sandler/Barrymore trilogy, and far from being Adam or Drew’s best performances, it certainly is far from the worst. The Sandler-Barrymore team is still 3 for 3 in my book. What a great partnership.