Friday, May 30, 2014

"Blended" Review: If You've Seen One Adam Sandler Vacation Masquerading As A Movie You've Seen Them All


Adam Sandler hasn't tried in a very very long time. He wears the same clothes in every movie he makes, he mopes around shooting out snide remarks as though he is waiting for a laugh track to kick in and worst of all, he just isn't very funny anymore. Most actors/comedians burn brightly at the beginning of their careers (Eddie Murphy, Jim Carey) and experience a sudden downfall, but Sandler's shift from funny man to regular guy has actually made him a millionaire.

Whatever issue you or I may take with his complacency doesn't take away from the fact that he has tapped into a demographic that eats up everything he does. This is especially true with his formulaic romantic comedies that are not only his least offensive productions but also a really good excuse to take a vacation with his friends and family while making a movie at the same time. It's pretty lazy, but as long as audiences crave it, he will supply it. His new film Blended falls in line perfectly with that philosophy which means no matter what I have to say about it, you already know what to expect. Read the full review after the break.

Review Vital Stats:  
Theater: AMC 30 Orange
Time:7:30 pm, May 20, 2014       
Projector Type: Digital 2D         
Film Rating: PG-13                    
Film Runtime: 1 hr 57 min    
Studio: Warner Bros.

Biases:  
Loves: Ummm...Vacations?
Likes: Ummm...Africa?
Neutral:  Drew Barrymore, Adam Sandler
Hates: Going on vacation in Africa with Adam Sandler
Where next?: I hear Australia is pretty nice Mr. Sandler...


After a horrible blind date at Hooters goes wrong in every way possible, both single parents Jim (Adam Sandler) and Lauren (Drew Barrymore) decide to end things immediately and return their focus back to their stable of kids. But as fate would have it Jim and Lauren continue to bump into each other at such convenient places as the grocery store or in Africa at a luxurious romantic getaway that they both inexplicably purchased passes to from the same source making it impossible for the two of them to not eventually find love in all the wrong places.

If you think Adam Sandler gives two s**ts about what kind of movies he makes anymore, well...then you probably saw Grown Ups 2 in the theater opening day and this entire review will be lost upon you. He isn't even trying anymore (as evidenced by his total lack of enthusiasm for anything happening in the film). He is not only playing the same character type that he has been playing for the past decade (the dopey guy with a hidden heart of gold with lovable kids), but the guy can't even bother to even pretend to be anybody else by at least dressing differently. Seriously, he is always wearing the same baggy jeans and sports shirts in every film he makes.


His level of disinterest in his own production seeds its way into everything though, making even heartfelt, if not completely misguided, performances by those like Drew Barrymore (who is at least trying to be honest and sincere here despite playing the same character from their last two films together) and the always energetic Terry Crews feel completely wasted. The entirety of Blended reeks of that old Sandler formula of going to an exotic location and watching as two Rhinos have sex in the background or laugh hysterically at the crazy owner of the resort popping up everywhere who never gets his name right.

There is a story beneath all this contempt, although it isn't anything that will stick with you longer than your walk to your car a few minutes after you just saw it (unless you discover this isn't anything other than a Brady Bunch knock off). Sandler plays the sad widower who despite being an irrepressible geek in High School still won the girl of his dreams but lost her to cancer leaving him with three adorable girls that he has no idea how to take care of despite being father of the year, each with their own distinct level of cute characteristics.

There's the older teen being treated like a boy who longs to put on make up and wear a dress for the first time, the middle aged daughter who sweetly just can't let go of her deceased mother yet and the youngest who happens to punctuate every scene she is in with a close up of her big smile as she says something that makes her seem wise beyond her years but also incredibly cute.


Barrymore is saddled with two boys and a deadbeat ex-husband played by Community's Joel McHale (is he going to be stuck in these type of roles forever?). To contrast how controlled and cuddly Sandler's three daughters are, her two boys are wild and out of control. One can't seem to hit a baseball to save his life and the other is a sex crazed nerd who has a very uncomfortable crush on his older babysitter. What do you think the chances are that Sandler will become the father her sons never had and Barrymore will become the mother his girls so desperately need?

At the outset of the film we see that their initial blind date is a travesty, but we already know that fate will draw them together again and again and again until they realize they are made for each other. The chemistry between the two actors that made films such as The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates mildly enjoyable is still there but it has been heavily dilluted over the years. Of course it doesn't help when you only have one of the two actors actually trying.

Admittedly, the tired and cliche-ridden screenplay hits a few notes of sincerity. When Barrymore learns the reason for being taken to Hooters for their first date it is sort of moving, or when Sandler's oldest daughter (played by current Disney it-girl Bella Thorne) learns to be a girl for the first time it is sweet, as is the scene when Barrymore sings Sandler's daughters to sleep unknowingly using the song their real mother used to sing to them. Even the will-they-or-won't-they romance formula isn't that offensive, but Sandler cripples the entire thing by his extreme indifference at every turn.


There comes a scene later in the film during an adventure into the African desert where all the kids and Barrymore start dancing with a local tribe and all seem to be having fun for the most part...except for Sandler who is inexplicably off screen the entire time. Only during the end credits scene do we see when they tried to get him to participate do we get to see just how uninterested he is in the whole ordeal and we understand that his heart just isn't in it anymore. It's easy to imagine every time they would call cut on set that he would go off with his real family at the exact same resort and do everything he was just doing on camera which is almost offensive in a way.

Which is a real shame, because despite is formulaic nature and being completely derivative of everything Sandler (and other romantic movies) have done for over a century now, there are parts of Blended that show potential for what should have been a fun African adventure with two actors who share the screen well together. The attractive African landscape (that is why he wanted to film the movie there after all) and the energetic performances by everyone but Sandler help save it enough to recommend as a rental when it becomes available, but those hoping that same magic that made The Wedding Singer such a fun film and 50 First Dates such a sweet romance will likely be disappointed by this glorified vacation.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

This isn't going to be one of those "If you like Adam Sandler..." type of closing comments. Simply because he doesn't deserve to have that free pass anymore and neither do his vacations masquerading as movies. While Drew Barrymore proves to be up for the challenge and the highly predictable and formulaic script do provide a couple of laughs here and there, Blended is destined to become bargain bin fodder at your local Wal-Mart much sooner than later, but just so long as Sandler has his fond memories of going to Africa it was all worth it. Right?

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