RATING: 1 star (out of 4)
If you liked The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates–boy, will you hate yourself for wasting money on Blended, a cynical con job that exploits fond memories of way back when Adam Sandler still cared and tried. Back when Sandler’s goal was to make his audience laugh, rather than laugh at his audience for making him richer and richer as his effort and imagination plummeted.
Out of new ideas and Grown Ups sequel treatments, at least for now, the Sandler machine goes deep in the well to fish out Drew Barrymore, who was with the Sandman before he was making boring comedies with boring Kevin James or dressing in drag to play his own twin sister.
Blended pairs Sandler and Barrymore as single parents who hate each other yet, as all single parents who hate each other do, decide to take their respective families together for a vacation to “Africa.”
The movie treats “Africa” as though it were a single resort town populated by white people who sit down at buffets while black people stay out of the way and entertain them with song and dance in the background.
“Welcome to Africa!” says one of these performers, making about as much sense as a Japanese guy welcoming travelers to “Asia” or a Detroit flight attendant welcoming passengers to “North America.”
There’s never a city or country mentioned. Just “Africa,” and the “Africa” the leads and their stupid families play in is just as generic and dull as the characters themselves, the writing (sample line: “What happens in Africa stays in Africa”) and the very idea for this unneeded Brady Bunch rehash.
Stupid, boring problems abound in an attempt to pass for suspense, waiting to be solved in agonizingly slow ways. The Sandler character is determined to keep going steady with his dead wife, so is impervious to the charms of the suddenly hot Barrymore. Her problem is the inability to shake her jerk of an ex (Joel McHale) and cope with her son’s burgeoning porn addiction. Her boys need masculine guidance and Sandler’s girls long for a feminine touch in their home life. Lucky for everyone, there’s nothing like a boring, stupid vacation to “Africa” to convince this group to somehow form a family.
Way back in Sandler’s golden era — the Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison days — WTF moments would abound, to amazing effect. Think “Stop looking at me, swan!” and impromptu feuds with imaginary penguins. Two decades later, the WTF is still there in Sandler’s movies, but the absurdity is of the head-smacking variety. Example: One of Sandler’s daughters, attempting to impress a dude during a pick-up basketball game, starts striking fashion model poses instead of obeying her dad’s commands to cut to the basket. If not for the scene in Catwoman in which Halle Berry dunks, or the entire movie Eddie, this would be the worst movie scene involving basketball of all time.
Sandler and Barrymore do still have as much chemistry as ever, and maybe a team-up between them would work in some sort of straight, serious romance. There’s no life or wit to their banter, and their tired eyes seem to be longing for the director to yell “cut!” so they can go away and nap.
There’s a scene in which McHale tells Barrymore “Remember when we used to laugh together?” that made my heart hurt. He could have been speaking of the relationship between Sandler and his suffering fans.
Starring Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Joel McHale, Kevin Nealon, Terry Crews and Wendy McLendon-Covey. Written by Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera. Directed by Frank Coraci. Rated PG-13. 117 minutes.