‘Blended:’ Third Time’s a Bummer

Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore truly have something special when they step on screen together. It’s effortless chemistry, an air of real friendship and love. Blended takes that extraordinary connection, layers it in some of the basest, most offensive and hackneyed conventions, and poops it out into a most unfortunate set of scenes that suffocates all but a few, glimmering moments of goodness.

The premise isn’t genius: two single parent families that “hate” each other end up in the same vacation spot at the same time, and a series of mishaps and sweeter moments bring the parents together, their families “blend.” You understand the title, right? It’s not that hard. I don’t know if the writers really thought the audience was stupid enough not to understand or they feared they didn’t have enough words to fill their nearly two hour movie, but the vacation that Sandler and Barrymore land on is a special week at an African resort, a week for “blended families” to bond. In case you still don’t quite get it, Terry Crews and a chorus of dudes that pop up now and then throughout the movie explain in exaggerated singsong just what a “blended” family is and what the whole purpose of the week is.

Now, I get that Adam Sandler isn’t known for his subtlety, but in the past he’s been able to use his brashness effectively. Here, the jokey asides and the kooky surrounding characters are stale (with the exception of Kevin Nealon, who is always on point and Allen Covert, who is traditionally out in left field, and responsible for one of the funniest scenes in the movie) and reliant on the “crazy” fact that they are in “Africa” (we never get more specific than that). That is not enough to sustain the jokes, and it’s lazy.

Sandler’s character, Jim, a manger of a Dick’s Sporting Goods store, has three daughters, one of whom is in the throes of puberty as a pretty hardcore tomboy, something that I know from experience is not at all fun. But she looks like a girl, and she keeps getting mistaken for a boy throughout the movie, in horribly contrived moments that do nothing but repeat the same awful joke over and over. When Barrymore’s character sees that she has a crush on a boy at the resort, her suggestion is to go to the salon, get a girly haircut, and trade her khakis and polos for floral dresses and lip gloss. It’s such an old-fashioned, normative move with no acknowledgement of such. If the first words out of Barrymore’s mouth were, “You’re beautiful just the way you are, but if you want I’ll take you shopping,” instead of, “You need a girl haircut so this boy will notice you,” (not the exact line), it would have been at least a trifle nuanced. But as is, this brand of jokes, with a strict reliance on overplayed stereotypes and this compulsion toward leveling the intelligence playing field, prevails in Blended. It is offensive to your audience and to people in general to give them so little credit. It’s 2014. Write better jokes.

The really regrettable thing is that Sandler and Barrymore are truly wonderful. This is their third collaboration, but this one will go down as an aberration when held up against the lovely ranks of The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates. It’s a shame, because they are made for each other, and there are a bunch of real moments in this movie. They are convincingly great and flawed parents, ones who fill the inevitable voids for each other’s children. It’s a shame that that stuff wasn’t able to shine through. Shake this off and get it together, Sandler and Barrymore. We want to grow old with you.

Grade: C

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