By: Addison Wylieblended poster

Adam Sandler has developed a foolproof plan.  It’s a movie formula that enables him and his friends to take luxurious vacations while making a movie in between excursions.  The baffling part is that even though these recent flicks get slammed by critics, they manage to make a lot of money.  I’m unclear as to if the film makes a profit, but it must be a good sign if Blended marks Sandler’s fifth cinematic sabbatical.

With success comes dependance.  One could argue that Sandler’s withdrawal from his fanbase has gotten stronger as money signs cloud his judgement.  Cleverness has progressively gotten the boot to make way for distracting product placement and cheap prat falls.  With Blended, Sandler takes on the additional task of being a producer.  He knows perfectly well how many logos are being flashed – all to make an effortless buck.

I deeply believe Sandler has grown addicted to making money, and Blended only makes me more certain.

The addiction leaves no aspect of Blended unscathed.  The most disappointing revelation was watching how it affected director Frank Coraci.  Not all of Coraci’s films are flawless, but his ability to stir fetching chemistry was what made The Wedding Singer one of Sandler’s best movies.  I was anticipating what Coraci could bring to the table and seeing how he could use Sandler and Drew Barrymore in a new, modern day setting.

Unfortunately, it turns out that Coraci is no match for commercialism and Happy Madison’s stubbornness.  You could’ve told me Dennis Dugan had directed this slouching comedy, and you would’ve had me out to be a gullible fool.  The position of director is – yet again – turned into a role for a hired gun who is merely in attendance to yell “cut!” or “action!” through a megaphone.

The premise is leaky, but screenwriters Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera hope you won’t notice.  Sandler – yet again – plays a good natured single father to his children and is unconventionally paired up with single mom Lauren (played by Barrymore) on a trip to Africa after a botched blind date at a local Hooters aligns the stars.

In the role of Jim, Sandler hopes to have his cake and eat it too.  His personality is rough around the edges, but he’ll always be there for his kids.  He’s ill-mannered and a bit dirty, but his warm heart doesn’t stop him from being unlikable.  You know the drill, and you’re more aware of how badly Sandler has played out this act by now.  This is another Happy Madison trope I’m still getting used to – the constant reminders that Sandler is charismatic and makes a good father.

This sweet-and-salty combo that Sandler can now play in his sleep feels especially stale this time around.  Partly because this schtick doesn’t show the actor in a position of creativity, but mostly because the boneheaded jokes don’t make Jim out to be a funny guy.  Just someone who quirkily likes sports and has a fixation to make his daughters more boyish.

Blended contains repetitive comedic set-ups with banal punchlines to match.  Menchell and Sera think they have an idea of how repeated jokes work, but they’re severely off point when it comes to comedic timing.  One of Barrymore’s recurring gags is that she has no idea how to carry her youngest child without carelessly bashing their head against a wall.  The screenwriters are literally banging us over the head with why we should be laughing.

In order to give the audience extra credit to care, Blended has its oddball smattering of superficial sentimentality.  These are the type of conventions that send your face into contortions because of how haphazard these sentiments are.  Scenes featuring one of Jim’s daughters communicating to her deceased mother will have your eyes rolling, and you’ll be gagging anytime Lauren runs parallel with any of the deceased wife’s traits.

Are the South African landscapes at least showcased tastefully?  Barely, but it’s nothing that National Geographic or any nature documentary hasn’t shown you before.  It’s extent to connect to the exotic location is to show a lot of stock footage of lions, elephants, and giraffes.  Most of the time, our characters are cooped up at the flashy resort where lots of drawn out family activity flaunting ensues.

The chemistry between Sandler and Barrymore has weathered under these poor conditions, but you can tell the duo are happy to be working together.  The last time they played romantic interests was in 2004’s surprising 50 First Dates.  But, while the funnyman has cracked this scheme to take vacations and advertise around the basis of a “harmless comedy”, you can tell Barrymore has grown up.  Even she has a tough time selling the stiff female chit-chat, which sounds like its been severely dulled down to fit the film’s sitcom appeal.

Blended is an awful movie, but it probably won’t hurt anyone’s reputation.  It’ll be as easily forgotten as its vague title.  The mightily irritating child actors will round out their acting skills over time, and Barrymore will continue partaking in better projects.  As for Sandler, here’s hoping he leaves the camera crew behind next time he wants to catch some rays on the studio’s dime.

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