Film review: BLENDED, from Built For Speed

Adam Sandler’s irritating and embarrassingly juvenile comedies represent some of recent cinema’s lowest points.  The few bright lights in his dismal oeuvre have usually co-starred Drew Barrymore whose screwball comic talents and considerable charm have, in films like The Wedding Singer and Fifty First Dates, managed to neutralise Sandler’s whiny obnoxiousness.

The two are paired again in Blended a film that claims to but doesn’t really examine the circumstances afflicting blended families.  While Sandler and Barrymore have some of the old chemistry this doesn’t make up for a lazy, cliché-infested script and a disturbing dearth of humour.

In a scenario suspiciously similar to the one in Just Go With It, the 2010 film in which Jennifer Aniston co-starred with Sandler, Blended sees the two leads tentatively finding each other at a holiday resort while trying to deal with their respective children’s neuroses. 

Sandler plays sports-mad widower Jim whose apparent ignorance of women has seen him turn his young daughters into androgynous jocks.  Barrymore plays Lauren the obsessive, over-protective mother of two anti-social nerd boys, one of whom looks like a 13-year-old Eugene Levy.  After a disastrous blind date at Hooters, Jim and Lauren vow never to see each other but a dubious plot contrivance sees them forced together while holidaying at, of all places, South Africa’s Sun City resort. 

Much of Blended is predictable but it still contains a jarringly incongruous mix of sentimental family drama and crass comedy that shifts awkwardly from sensitive scenes of Sandler consoling his children to genitalia jokes.  It’s never as offensively stupid as Sandler disasters like That’s My Boy but it does have its share of cringe-worthy moments; the portrayal of black people in this film is particularly worrying.

There are a few genuinely funny moments scattered through this film but most of the gags elicited a grim silence from the audience.  Director Frank Coraci, who is responsible for some of Sandler’s shockers such as The Waterboy as well as Sandler’s most endearing film The Wedding Singer, gives this film a listless pace and a dreary look that almost seems out of focus.

Playing a widower, Sandler is uncharacteristically subdued in this film, which at least spares the audience his usual piercing, whiny outbursts.  Within the confines of a cookie-cutter middle-class single mom role, Barrymore is as likeable as ever but the script gives her few funny lines and zero character development.  The supporting cast are the usual collection of Sandler film oddballs.  Wendy McLendon-Covey as Barrymore’s feisty oversexed work-mate simply delivers an inferior version of the character she played in Bridesmaids while Kevin Nealon and Jessica Lowe offer cheap laughs as a grubby couple who just about give live sex shows at the dinner table. The film also features the second weirdest film cameo of all-time (the weirdest being former Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy’s appearance in 1990 teen Summer camp movie Camp Cucamonga) as South African fast bowler Dale Steyn turns up in one scene and actually has dialogue.

Given Sandler’s awful recent record and some pretty dire trailers preceding this film’s release, Blended is surprisingly tolerable but it’s hardly a landmark in romantic comedy or redemption for Sandler.

Nick’s rating: **

Genre: Comedy.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Frank Coraci.

Release date: 12th June 2014

Running time:  117mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. 

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