I don’t think anything makes me roll my eyes more than when I hear that another Adam Sandler movie is coming out. Don’t get me wrong; I loved the stuff he did in the mid-to-late ‘90s (Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy) when he was fresh of his stint with Saturday Night Live. The guy really had some funny stuff that fit perfectly with the times we were living in back then.
Somewhere along the way though, Sandler didn’t grow up and evolve like the rest of us did. Not since 2009’s Judd Apatow-directed Funny People (some would even say not since 2004’s Spanglish) has Sandler offered up anything interesting or remotely outside of his comfort zone. For the last five years his shtick has consisted of him playing crude cavemen-like roles with the love interest in his films somehow falling for him. While a lot of his films in recent history do have their moments with a couple of really good jokes or a few heartfelt moments that bring some pathos to his characters, most of the time these types of scenes are few and far between and ultimately don’t even out the rest of the bonehead decisions his character makes.
That brings us to this year’s Adam Sandler movie, Blended. The basic setup . . . two single parents and their respective kids are unexpectedly thrust together on an African vacation. What will pique your interest as soon as you see any of the promotional material for the film is that Sandler is for a third time paired up with Drew Barrymore. The Wedding Singer has a soft spot in the hearts of many and their relationship felt pretty enchanting in 50 First Dates, but can lightning strike for a third time?
Sadly like many of Sandler’s cohorts that join him in other films, it feels like Barrymore is just another one of Sandler’s friends who’s here to have a good time with him in the movie rather than emote. Barrymore’s character plays the role of the love interest, but from the very first sequence in the film where the audience is introduced to both leads, it’s very obvious that these are just two friends riffing off their lines and not actually behaving as normal people would if they were on a real blind date. The scene is instead played for total laughs, and while the audience I was with totally ate it up, I just couldn’t help but think how no one would ever act like that in a real situation. So goes a lot of the performances from many of the other adult characters in the film–everyone is here to clock in, say or ad-lib funny lines, and then call it a day.
Probably the most egregious aspect of the film is that it is littered with wasted potential, first and foremost being the African locale. Sure the change of scenery provides Sandler and company a number of jokes to mine, but the African setting wasn’t really utilized in any meaningful way. No real animal interactions other than some questionable ostrich riding, no real African culture, and lots of cartoonish portrayals of African people. That’s not to say that there were times when the running gags of a singing Terry Crews or Abdoulaye NGom’s concierge Mfana addressing Sandler with another bogus name were quite hilarious. But those jokes were so one note that they eventually got tired after a while.
The heart of the film revolves around Sandler’s and Barrymore’s kids seeing the relationship grow between their two parents and ultimately overcoming their own personal struggles. These were the times when the film tugged at my heartstrings and made me actually feel something for all of these characters. But even then, sometimes in the very next scene, you would see these kids get into some really harebrained situations that washed away all the credibility that had been built up previously.
Overall Blended isn’t a bad film; it’s just not a very good one. Probably the most disappointing thing I can say about it is that it has a lot of potential to be a good comedy but squanders that opportunity away with cheap laughs. Not even the great chemistry that Sandler and Barrymore built up in their two previous films together is enough to help the film. Add to the fact that the film is just way too long. Clocking in at just under two hours, there were a lot of jokes and storylines that could have been edited out; and while it might not have helped the film, at least it would have been shorter. If you really do want to go for some cheap laughs over the Memorial Day weekend, then by all means, Blended is the film you’re looking for. If not, steer clear of the Sandler train. That’s the only way we’ll make it stop.
Blended is currently playing in theaters everywhere.
2/5 stars // PG-13 // 1h 57min