Few people get in the least bit excited any more about the idea of a new Adam Sandler film. This wasn’t always the case; personally, I could happily sit and watch Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer and Punch-Drunk Love on any given day, but Grown Ups 2? That’s My Boy? The horrific Jack And Jill? It would be fair to say that Sandler’s recent fare has been lazy, recycled and a long way short of what he’s capable of.
Blended is slightly better. Not by much, but reteaming with the excellent Drew Barrymore for the third time (the first being the aforementioned and excellent The Wedding Singer and the second the decidedly mediocre 50 First Dates) is a shuffle of feet in the right direction.
Here, Sandler and Barrymore play Jim and Lauren, both single parents who are back on the market for very different reasons. After a blind date goes terribly wrong the only thing they both agree on is that they never want to see each other again. But that’s until they are thrown together by circumstances that only exist in Hollywood films, with the pair sharing a once in a lifetime family holiday to South Africa.
So then: Blended is better than Grown Ups 2. It’s slightly more entertaining, but as a consequence, just a little bit more frustrating. For in the ingredients here is a better film than the one we get. Its choices are odd, certainly. For instance, you could have easily taken away Barrymore’s family narrative and focused on Sandler’s, which is about a family coming to terms with the death of their mother, and how a sporty all American dad gets on with the task of raising three girls who are all going through very different things. The scenes with Sandler’s character and his daughters are the moments that tend to work here.
But around those glimmers of something better is the rest of Blended, a predominantly beige film filled with lazy and mostly unfunny gags, pointless comedic setups and seemingly every single African stereotype you can think of flung into your face for two hours (the first 30 minutes of which are almost unwatchable). A band of traditional singers led by former NFL star Terry Crews are practically grating and pointlessly woven through the story, just in case you missed what had just happened two seconds earlier.
Still, the bright spark here is Bella Thorne who plays Sandler’s eldest daughter Hillary. She works well with the material she is given and fills up the screen with the presence and class of a young Molly Ringwald. She’s definitely a face to watch for the future.
Furthermore, Barrymore and Sandler are fine as the leads, but lack any notable personality. Sandler has given up any pretence of acting and now just plays a similar version of himself in every movie he is in, while Barrymore, more disappointingly, gives one of her weaker performances here as the slightly neurotic but sweet Lauren. She is better than this film and hopefully we’ll see some more of that sparkle soon, behind or in front of the camera.
Apart from the kids in the movie, the rest of the supporting cast are completely forgettable. At one point, Shaquille O’Neal turns up as a workmate of Jim’s, but it’s such a blur I’m almost convinced I imagined it.
Blended isn’t the worst movie you’ll see this year, and it’s an improvement when measured next to Sandler’s recent output. But it’s still a weak comedy, with a terrible opening, and eventual rays of light that just about crawl its way to a second star at the bottom there. And, hey, at least it’s not Grown Ups 3…
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