Directed by: Frank Coraci
Premise: A widowed father with three daughters (Adam Sandler) and a recently divorced single mother of two boys (Drew Barrymore) go on a disastrous first date but through a series of coincidences their families end up vacationing together at an African resort and the couple gets a second chance at love.
What Works: Blended benefits from lowered expectations. Over the past few years Adam Sandler has starred in a series of really terrible movies like You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Jack and Jill, That’s My Boy, and Grown Ups and its sequel. If those films set the bar, then Blended is far above it. Sandler’s previous projects have been so horrendously lazy that they barely qualified as feature films. Unlike those pictures, Blended looks like an actual movie. Its production values are acceptable and it at least looks like a film that ought to be playing in a theater instead of languishing in the discount bin at Wal-Mart. Aside from looking better, Blended also has its heart in the right place. The Brady Bunch-like premise contrasts with some of Adam Sandler’s recent pictures which have often been mean spirited. Yet, the element of Blended that is most notable is Adam Sandler himself. His performance in Blended recalls the Sandler of an earlier era who starred in pictures like Spanglish and Big Daddy, back when Sandler seemed to care about the end product of his films. The reason for this sudden uptick in quality may be the presence of actress Drew Barrymore. She and Sandler have worked together previously on movies like The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates and Barrymore tends to elevate Sandler’s performances. Although their previous collaborations were not great movies, the pair work well together as an on-screen couple and the makers of those films achieved what they were trying to do. That’s generally the case in Blended; it isn’t a great movie, or even a very good one, but it does succeed in giving the audience what they want and expect.
What Doesn’t: Blended is much better than Adam Sandler’s recent movies but it still isn’t very good. Part of the problem is in the movie’s tone. It shifts radically from very serious family moments to very silly slapstick comedy and the various parts don’t coalesce. It’s revealed in the opening scene that Adam Sandler is a widower, having lost his wife to cancer, and his daughters are struggling to get by without their mother. The sons of Barrymore’s character have serious anger issues and the older boy demonstrates characteristics of misogyny that should be alarming. These are all fairly serious issues and they’re presented dramatically but after establishing them the filmmakers ignore those issues in favor of slapstick comedy and only return to these conflicts to cap them off with a simplistic schmaltz. The simplicity of Blended is rooted in its anachronistically traditional notion of gender roles. The implicit (and sometimes explicit) message of the movie is that a single mother is incapable of raising well balanced boys nor could a single father provide adequate emotional support for his daughters. This is silly and not in the way the filmmakers intend. Blended is also problematic in its depiction of Africa and the people of the African continent. For one, the white characters just go to Africa; they don’t mention a country or a region, just Africa, as though the whole continent is one big safari tour. This generic Africa of Blended is populated with African stereotypes. Abdoulaye NGom plays a servant who waits on Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore’s characters and Terry Crews appears as a hypersexual lounge singer who recalls the history of minstrel shows. To be fair, Blended is par for the course in Hollywood’s relationship with Africa but it is nevertheless an ignorant and stupid depiction.
Bottom Line: Those who fondly recall movies like The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates will find at least a pleasant diversion in Blended but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s not a very good movie.
Episode: #493 (June 1, 2014)