Blended (2014)

BlendedReleased: May 23, 2014. Directed by: Frank Coraci. Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Wendi McLendon-Covey. Runtime: 117 min.

Adam Sandler and co bring us a rom-com that’s heavy on the romance, light on the comedy. Six or seven good laughs throughout the feature is no impressive feat, but is okay for Sandler’s current streak, considering six laughs is around my personal combined tally for how many times I laughed during That’s My Boy, Jack and JillGrown Ups 2 and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. You could say the film is funny on occasion. Sandler portrays Jim, a family guy with no wife and three daughters. He goes on an awful blind date with Lauren (Drew Barrymore), as his first attempt at dating since his wife passed. When Lauren’s best friend Jen (Wendi McLendon-Covey) breaks off her relationship with Jim’s boss, Lauren pounces at the opportunity to take her kids to Africa. Jim does too, and the trip is conveniently a getaway just for blended families! 

Blended is pretty much Just Go With It with a twist: the characters hate each other at first, but everyone’s still just bonding on vacation in an exotic place. Writers Ivan Menchell bring so many components of Sandler’s previous films to get Blended, which is a film that just steals from stronger movies. At least Sandler knows what works to still get work. Some of the laughs that hit are amusing song choices, at least when they’re not completely obvious. Before I get onto what jokes do work, I’ll say what doesn’t make this a family-friendly movie. There are so many sex jokes and some of this is just plain gross. Some of it’s even worse than a deer pissing on Sandler’s face in Grown Ups 2. Take this for example: A giraffe’s very long tongue goes down a character’s throat, practically, when a character is going in for the kiss. This abysmal attempt at comedy is cringe-worthy.  

What work best are some cameos and bit roles. Shaquille O’Neal shows up in a not that funny cameo, because his acting is as strong as his free throwing ability. Terry Crews constantly shows up to sing a song about blended families and whatever else is on the caricature’s mind. He is funny at first, but the film gets a bit desperate to use him so many times during the film. It’s somehow amusing on a minor level throughout, even after his signature titty dance. It’s partly due to his energy, and partly due to the fact that the film gets boring and energy is welcome. I’ll keep the most amusing cameo under wraps. 

It seems to me that Sandler is trying to get laughs by channeling aspects of his comedies that have worked in the past. I counted seven occasions where characters channel aspects from his other films. I guess if it works, many people won’t notice – but those who do, it’s going to seem a bit lazy. Sandler brings slapstick humour and adult-oriented jokes that get the bigger laughs, while parents will think “As if this looked family-friendly.” Kevin Nealon portrays one half of a strange Canadian couple. He channels his character from Happy Gilmore at times. His wife is a bimbo named Ginger; a character who doesn’t get one laugh. She shimmies a lot, which makes Lauren’s eldest son Brandon horny. 

He’s a walking joke; as he resembles Frodo, he’s a masturbating fiend, and he calls his mom hot on two occasions – which might be a subconscious reason for his hostility against Jim. I detect an Oedipus complex. Lauren’s other son Tyler is a temperamental kid who might only have few lonely brain cells left, due to the amount of times his mother hits his head on walls in one week’s span. Barrymore can’t save this because she gets only about two laughs. Her chemistry with Sandler is only able to give audiences so much enjoyment because it’s gotten old. It also doesn’t help that they don’t like each other for the first half. Wendi McLendon-Covey is cast in a lame sidekick role where she can’t exhibit much talent, and Joel McHale portrays Lauren’s ex. He’s been largely unfunny in every film I’ve seen him in thus far. I think he’s funny on TV’s Community, but now that it’s been cancelled – he needs to be picking stronger roles to star in, now more than ever. His schtick seems to be asshole characters, but he’s just not funny as them. 

Bella Thorne’s character Hilary is a tomboy who only sportswear and is nicknamed Larry by her father. Can you tell he wanted a boy? She experiences an ugly duckling arc, which isn’t believable because even with that hideous curly bowl cut wig, she’s still mildly pretty. Put some extensions on her and slap on some make-up, and wow, she now has confidence because no one will mistake her for a boy or an ugly lesbian! The song choices for her transformation are obvious and just not that funny. Sandler’s middle daughter Espn (idiotically named after his favourite network ESPN) has a strange arc: She carries on conversations with her dead mom. Emma Fuhrmann’s performance helps it ring true occasionally, and it adds sincerity to the film, but it’s weird throughout. I guess there’s a big problem when the weird girl’s arc is the strongest. 

Elsewhere, there is sporadic sweetness in the film – but the film’s attempt to tackle realities of today’s day and age are forgettable, and the writers stretch it when they attempt to show that even in nature, families are blended. (A tiger and lion proceed to eat a baby hippo.) For Blended, predictable is fiercely boring and all the extraneous crap makes this run at nearly two hours. Films like these just shouldn’t be that long, unless it’s entertaining.

Score: 45/100

Happy Gilmore (1996)

Happy GilmoreReleased: February 16, 1996. Directed by: Dennis Dugan. Starring: Adam Sandler, Christopher McDonald, Julie Bowen. Runtime: 92 min.

“Happy Gilmore” is a silly sports comedy, which is its purpose; but God is it funny. Sandler plays the titular Happy Gilmore, a hockey-player-turned-golf-player because he has a wicked slap shot, but he can’t exactly skate so well. He takes his hockey skills and places them on the golf course, even if he has a hard time tapping the ball in sometimes. To help him with that is a love interest, Virginia Venet (Julie Bowen), and a former golf pro, Chubbs (Carl Weathers) to teach him how to improve on his game.

Happy’s motivation to join the golf tour is his grandmother, who hasn’t paid her taxes in years. Due to that, she loses her home – and in order to get it back, he’ll need some money.

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Fights with Bob Barker and other golfing patrons, distracting patrons yelling “Jackass!”, the villain, Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald), and endless product placement for Subway certainly makes this a satisfying and memorable Sandler movie. Oh, and then there is Ben Stiller’s turn as a crazed worker at the retirement home Gilmore’s grandmother stays at.

“Happy Gilmore” is a sweet, if entirely predictable sports comedy, and one of my favourite golf movies, even if it’s not in the same league as “Caddyshack.” It is still both Adam Sandler’s and director Dennis Dugan’s strongest comedies. I find myself laughing at this every time, no matter how many times I watch it.

There are solid chuckles throughout, and truly hilarious scenes. People will, of course, like it a lot more if they enjoy Sandler’s brand of comedy. This character gets very angry, which makes the title ironic. He’s a nice guy who means well, even if he’s generic to a fault. He is one of Sandler’s best characters. Wouldn’t it have been awesome if Sandler’s “Anger Management” movie was a sequel to this?

Score83/100

Anger Management (2003)

Anger ManagementReleased: April 11, 2003. Directed by: Peter Segal. Starring: Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson, Marisa Tomei. Runtime: 106 min.

“Anger Management,” not to be confused with the TV series starring Charlie Sheen, is one of Sandler’s very best movies, at least not within his early career. Its opening has chuckles, and it keeps a good momentum throughout.

Sandler plays a businessman who is wrongly sentenced to an anger-management program, where he meets an aggressive instructor.

Sandler’s still playing Sandler. For a movie that has him being enrolled in an anger management program, he is only sporadically angry. In fact, David should learn to express himself more. Buddy explains his disorder like this: There’s an explosive angry person, the person who yells at the cashier. There’s an implosive angry person, the cashier who one day snaps and kills everyone in the store. David is supposedly the implosive person, but he believes he is the guy hiding in the store dialling 9-1-1.

The film has a great “Why does everything happen to me?” way about it that makes it memorable and funny. There are more than a few heartwarming moments, as well. Though, the execution needs improvement.

It’s predictable but can you ask for anything less than one of the kings of stupidity, Adam Sandler? David Dorfman also provides a fine screenplay. There are consistent laughs throughout. It’s funny that Sandler gets out-shined so often in his own movies.

Jack Nicholson is definitely the best part about this movie, but it isn’t exactly difficult to outshine Sandler. John Turturro is another great part. They all have short fuses and it’s amusing to watch them be calmed down. Jack Nicholson’s strategies like making people sing “I Feel Pretty” is a highlight. The really great parts of the movie are John C. Reilly as one of David’s former bullies, and Woody Harrelson as a shemale prostitute, Galaxia. “I feel like dancing! Dancing!”

Score70/100

Click (2006)

ClickReleased: June 29, 2006. Director: Frank Coraci. Starring: Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale, Christopher Walken. Runtime: 107 min.

Finding a post-2000 Adam Sandler feature that isn’t middling is a rarity. That’s why “Click” is an emotionally engaging breath of fresh air.

The story follows Michael Newman (Adam Sandler), a workaholic architect who is so busy with work he can’t even find the time to finish the treehouse in the backyard. You see, he’s in line for a promotion from his boss, a character that doesn’t pass the Name Test, but is played by David Hasselhoff. Michael wants things in his life to be easier, and out-do his neighbours the O’Doyle’s in the process. What he gets to fix his problems will certainly put the O’Doyles to shame; after a late night drive in search of a universal remote, he lands at Bed, Bath and Beyond where Morty (Christopher Walken) gives him an extremely advanced universal remote. The remote enables Michael to fast-forward, skip scenes, fast-forward, pause, etc., his life; everything an ordinary remote can do. He can skip through the most boring parts of his life (I’d use it for the dentist), and initially the remote makes his life easier, but then it begins to overpower his decisions and affect his relationships with others.

The premise is a decent one, and its execution does it justice, for the most part. The film is only plagued by gimmicks and clichés that have been existent since the beginning of time. But it’s a funny film and a good time helped out by likable characters. There’s a lot of laughs and heart at play. The life lessons Michael learns (family, dedication) are important. This is one of the only Sandler comedies that can make me cry every time. The story is helped out by the attractive cast, especially a scene-stealing Christopher Walken. This is the type of movie that makes you want to go home, hug your family, make better choices and be thankful for your life. That’s profound for an Adam Sandler film, I’d say.

Score: 75/100

The Longest Yard (2005)

The Longest YardReleased: May 27, 2005. Directed by: Peter Segal. Starring: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Burt Reynolds. Runtime: 110 min.

“The Longest Yard” follows Paul Wrecking Crewe (Adam Sandler), who, after being charged with Grand Theft Auto, finds himself in a Texas prison. Everyone takes their football pretty freaking seriously there. Crewe was charged for throwing an NFL football game, which was pretty important since it seemed everyone had bets on the game. (The storytelling isn’t good enough to remember what the stakes were in the game, exactly.) There wasn’t enough evidence to prove his guilt, but everybody still hates him. Once he gets into the prison, the Warden (James Cromwell) coerces him to coach a football team composed of convicts to face off against the Guards of the prison in their first game of the season.

I saw the original “Longest Yard” awhile back. (I should re-watch it.) It’s a very funny movie, funnier than this. This film is a very basic remake of it, but it’s not terrible. It’s quite enjoyable, actually. And there’s nothing better than a remake that has the approval of the original’s starring man. In fact, Burt Reynolds is one of the best parts of the movie. And it’s great that he’s there. Since the target audience is teenagers, they probably won’t even know that this is a remake. 

There are chuckles throughout the movie and it’s pretty decent for a traditional football film. It’s hilarious at times, mostly thanks to Chris Rock and Terry Crews, and often enough, Sandler. William Fichtner plays the main guard who thinks he runs the prison. He’s antagonistical and sends around mixed signals. His motivations are just irritating because he’s a cookie-cutter character. 

The football scenes are fun. It’s amusing to watch this football team of misfits become better and better. It’s even better watching them face the guards in the football game. Some of the background characters are hard to differentiate. They’re either Giant, a Kind Giant, or Faster than Fast, or Cheeseburger Eddie (Terry Crews). But the viewer will probably care about the more prominent characters. I think I’ve worn this movie out (Dang it), so I’ll re-visit the original “Longest Yard”. It’s probably much better, anyway. 

Score63/100

Triple review: ‘Bedtime Stories,’ ‘Mr. Deeds’ and ‘You Don’t Mess with the Zohan’

These are a few Sandler movies that are being reviewed from memory…

Bedtime StoriesReleased: December 25, 2008. Director: Adam Shankman. Stars: Adam Sandler, Keri Russell, Guy Pearce. Runtime: 99 min.

“Bedtime Stories” is imaginative and it’s one of Sandler’s more family-friendly efforts, but it’s lame, boring and forgettable.

Score38/100

 

Mr. Deeds

 

Released: June 28, 2002. Director: Steven Brill. Stars: Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, John Turturro. Runtime: 96 min.

“Mr. Deeds” is a watchable Adam Sandler movie. You root for Longfellow Deeds because he’s a small-town guy trying to adapt to the big city life, and he’s likeable enough to wish for his happiness. Ryder’s character at first is extremely unlikeable. Like most comedies (with hints of romance), it’s predictable – and you’ll see Ryder’s change of heart from 96 minutes away. There’s a few laugh-out-loud moments (“I think I just shat myself!”) and a lot of chuckles, so it’s an entertaining comedy that I find myself always watching when it’s on TV. John Turturro is amusing in his supporting role. But I assume it’s inferior to the original, but I can’t comment on that because I haven’t seen it.

Score70/100

You Don't Mess with the ZohanReleased: June 6, 2008. Director: Dennis Dugan. Stars: Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chriqui. Runtime: 113 min.

I watched this on TV the other week. I was half-paying attention and half on the computer, but even as part-background noise, it was still as awful as I remember it being at the theatre. The plot isn’t entirely stupid (An Israeli Special Forces Soldier fakes his death so he can re-emerge in New York City as a hair stylist), at least compared to some of Sandler’s other works, but the humour is stupid. I like politically incorrect humour – but all I ask is that it’s funny, like some of Sacha Baron Cohen’s work (mostly just “Borat”). Sacha Baron Cohen, Sandler is not. This is a middling effort, but at least there’s an effort to make his character memorable, since he isn’t distinctive in all of his average guy roles. It’s really too bad that it’s also one of his worst characters. John Turturro tries his best, but even he can’t make this enjoyable.

Score38/100

Little Nicky (2000)

Little NickyReleased: November 10, 2000. Directed by: Steven Brill. Starring: Adam Sandler, Patricia Arquette, Rhys Ifans. Runtime: 90 min.

I’m not sure why I give Dennis Dugan a hard time as a director. It isn’t that he’s a poor director; it’s just that the movies he directs are usually brought down its poor writing. But Steven Brill is probably the worst director out of Adam Sandler’s crew.

Little Nicky’s (Adam Sandler) two evil brothers Adrian (Rhys Ifans) and Cassius (Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister) have just escaped from Hell and are wreaking havoc on an unsuspecting earth. His dad (Harvey Keitel) is disintegrating and it’s up to Nicky to save him and all of a humanity by midnight before one of his brothers becomes the new Satan.

“Little Nicky” is sort-of a guilty pleasure. Yeah, the premise is far-fetched, but it’s a fun movie. It’s not the worst movie out there, but I know it certainly isn’t the best. One main flaw about the movie is the soundtrack. It just feels like it was made the night before development started, from Rock N’ Roll’s greatest hits.

The main character, Nicky, isn’t exactly the greatest guy out there. He’s the son of Satan. He’s oddly likable, if one could get past his facial oddities. Patricia Arquette a great actress who makes for one of Sandler’s finest on-screen counterparts. In any other Sandler movie, she would not work. But Valerie’s, Arquette’s character, oddities really match the odd personality Nicky possesses. Arquette is sweet and softly-spoken, so she brings Valerie to life well.

The movie’s hilarious at times but the sentimentality doesn’t ring true, really; and the writers attempt to force the sweetness too much. I like the fish-out-of-water humour, and some of the cameos are hysterical. Dana Carvey as a referee, Whitey, who was actually a character in “Eight Crazy Nights,” portrayed by Sandler. Peter Dante and Jonathan Loughran are funny as people who hail Satan.

Quentin Tarantino is awesome as a Deacon who one would see on the streets, the cuckoo guy preaching God’s word. Reese Witherspoon shows up for a bit as a sexy angel. A character from one of Sandler’s classics makes a cameo. And Jon Lovitz shows up as a pervert peering in on a sexy mother, and get sent to hell for it. Whenever he shows up, Kool & The Gang’s Ladies Night sounds, and it’s a great touch.

You’ll only find this movie funny if you enjoy Sandlers’ shtick. He talks in a funny speech impediment throughout. It will get laughs from his fans. His character is distinctive because of the speech impediment. The movie lets us know that Nicky got his speech impediment by being hit in the face by a shovel by his brother Cassius. (Speaking of Nicky’s brothers, Rhys Ifans puts in an amusing turn as Adrian.) Why doesn’t anyone just hit him with a shovel early on again? Maybe it’s like amnesia? Reverse effect, guys…

The movie is completely stupid, but it knows it. So that’s good. That’s funny. But it would be better if it just feels like “Little Nicky,” not “Popeye’s Chicken presents: Little Nicky.” The comedy also gets extra points for shoving pineapples up Hitler’s ass. Thanks for the laughs, Satan.

Score63/100