2 ½ stars
In a word: Playful
BLENDED reunites star-crossed actors Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore once again, this time as single parents on a familiar and predictable romantic trajectory.
Sandler and Barrymore star as Jim and Lauren, a widower and divorcee (or she’s separated, the film never quite makes it clear) respectively, who first meet on the worst blind date ever. So, naturally, they’re forced to bump into each other again – and again. This second time is where they both learn of a family vacation up for grabs due to a relationship spat between Jim’s boss and Lauren’s best friend. They go their separate ways intending to never see each other again, but of course they end up on the aforementioned family vacation together. So begins the film’s hour-and-a-half tourism campaign for Africa.
The film is determined to demonstrate the animosity between the leads and their families. Jim and Lauren cant stand each other, Lauren’s kids don’t like Jim and Jim’s kids don’t like Lauren’s kids. It’s lathered on liberally to generate a canvas for an abundance of jokes that are simply delivered too playfully to be mean. With the irrefutable chemistry between Sandler and Barrymore carried over from previous films, you’ll be hard-pressed to believe the two characters actually hated each other as much as the film wants you to. The predictable set-up didn’t help either.
BLENDED spends far longer than it should pushing this character dynamic, but thankfully once they land in Africa it doesn’t take much time before they slowly start to bond with each other, help each other out and realize in some way they need each other. Each of the kids has an issue they’re dealing with that the opposite parent holds the key to fixing. I actually enjoyed a lot of how these individual subplots were handled in the end despite firstly recoiling at their potential tackiness and schmaltziness. When BLENDED lets down its guard of juvenile humor, it shows a great deal of heart as the characters confront their circumstances and search for resolution. These moments are fleeting, and they aren’t as weighty as they ought to be given the film is primarily a family comedy, but they’re worth it.
The jokes include everything you would imagine or have come to expect from an Adam Sandler movie. Thankfully this film tones down the infuriating innateness of some of his previous films (Jack and Jill, That’s My Boy), but the comedy still utilizes slapstick, immature quips, sarcasm, funny voices, toilet humor and overdone running gags. Every time I found myself laughing and enjoying the comedy, another joke popped up that made me cringe. A vexingly filthy couple and an ever-present African song-and-dance group are both incessant contributors to running gags that run out of steam rapidly.
Barrymore is her warmly charismatic self, bringing a great deal of humility and charm to the table to balance out Sandler. Sandler’s hits and misses are on par with each other in this film, but he does quite well with some of the film’s more emotionally touching scenes. The cast of children is likeable and consistent. The young actors all do their best with their brief parts, never irritatingly overacting or conversely lacking charisma altogether.
BLENDED, despite all its cheesiness, covers some important themes about life. At its core, it is a film about change. The characters are navigating their way through a chapter in their lives that gives them the ultimatum to be stagnant or to move on, let go and accept that there is such a thing as a second chance. It’s touched on lightly, but it’s there.
BLENDED was released in cinemas across Australia on June 12th, 2014.
REVIEWER: David Thomas Williams