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

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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