Something about Drew Barrymore seems to smooth out Adam Sandler’s abrasive edges and bring out his sweetness without making him cloying. After The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, the two actors have teamed up once again, and the result, Blended, proves to be another candidate for the title of least objectionable Sandler comedy. This isn’t ringing praise, but after the horror shows that were Sandler’s last three movies, I’m sure even his die-hard fans will gladly take what they can get.
The movie begins at a terrible blind date between Jim (Sandler), the recently widowed, overwhelmed father of three girls, and Lauren (Barrymore), the recently divorced, overprotective mother of two boys. Shortly thereafter, Lauren’s best friend (Wendi McLendon-Covey) suddenly breaks off her romance with Jim’s boss (Dan Patrick), leaving a paid-up, weeklong South African vacation for a family of seven that’s threatening to go unused. Separately, Jim and Lauren buy a share of the vacation as a present for their kids, but they’re massively nonplussed when they realize they’re going to be stuck together for the duration.
Each of the five kids gets their own personality trait, which is more characterization than a Sandler comedy usually gives us. The star is nicely (if overly) understated, allowing Barrymore to mug for laughs. McLendon-Covey fires off some good wisecracks in the early going –– why the movie doesn’t find a way to take her to Africa, I’m sure I don’t know. The only part of this movie that threatens to send you toward the exits are the interludes with Kevin Nealon and Jessica Lowe as an annoyingly affectionate newlywed couple.
For the sake of thoroughness, I should note that this drags on way too long at 117 minutes. Even though much of the movie was actually shot in South Africa, it never ventures far beyond the boundaries of the resort hotel that has fake crocodiles in the moat. Having set up some potentially fruitful characters, Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera’s script doesn’t let them go anywhere. Jim’s short-haired, basketball-playing eldest daughter (Bella Thorne) is repeatedly mistaken for a boy and answers to “Larry” — short for “Hilary” — but just when you’re thinking that it might be interesting to see Sandler play parent to a girl like this, it turns out that all Hilary wants is to wear makeup and pretty dresses and date that cute guy (Zak Henri) at the resort. Boring!
Who cares, though? Nobody goes to Adam Sandler comedies for complex issues. They go for some easy laughs, and Blended delivers these without becoming overtly offensive, especially during a set piece when Lauren goes parasailing behind a Jeep that runs out of gas. There’s also a romantic montage set to an instrumental version of “Careless Whisper” played by a band of trained monkeys dressed as Hooters waitresses. You probably haven’t seen that before, and it will probably make you laugh.
Starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Directed by Frank Coraci. Written by Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera. Rated PG-13.