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Thursday, May 29, 2014 12:01 am

Blended a familiar concoction

Drew Barrymore as Lauren Reynolds and Adam Sandler as Jim Friedman in Blended
PHOTO COURTESY WARNER BROS. PICTURES

 

As funny as it sounds, I held out a modicum of hope for Blended. After all, two of Adam Sandler’s more successful films, The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, also co-starred Drew Barrymore and there’s no denying, these two have an easy chemistry between them that’s not forced and pleasant to watch. And while that camaraderie is on display in this latest effort, it simply isn’t enough to overcome a silly script that’s bogged down with sophomoric gags and lazy writing that have, unfortunately, become hallmarks in Sandler’s films of late.

Surprisingly, the movie gets off on the right foot. We witness one of the worst first dates in the history of mankind. Jim (Sandler), a widower with three daughters, has been set up with Lauren (Barrymore), a recent divorcee with two boys, and his venue of choice for their initial meeting is a Hooters in Jersey. It goes just as badly as you would expect with the actor’s man-child persona in full bloom while his lovely co-star appropriately aghast at the proceedings throughout. It’s a funny, funny bit and it’s to screenwriters Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera’s credit that they portray Lauren as being open-minded and mature enough to realize what bad shape Jim is in and they part on amicable terms.

However, any positive marks the scribes earn early on are soon thrown out the window when they employ a ridiculous plot twist – too convoluted to go into here – that throws the two fractured families together for a cheap trip to Africa. It doesn’t start well but the needs of their children end up being the glue that holds the whole thing together, eventually drawing them closer. You don’t have to be a genius to see that Jim will be the dad her boys need – participating in an ostrich race seals the deal there – while Lauren will be the mom his daughters crave, proving invaluable to the eldest, Hilary (Disney Channel standby Bella Thorne), when she suggests that the haircuts she’s been getting at dad’s barbershop might not be her speed.

As directed by Sandler regular Frank Coraci (Waterboy, Click), there’s an amiable, unassuming tone to the entire affair that’s not off-putting but hardly inspiring. In the same vein is Kevin Nealon who appears as a fellow vacationer, doing what he always does, trying to milk laughs with obvious jokes while Jessica Lowe as his much-younger wife comes off as far too shrill to be human. However, as he always does, Terry Crews (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) livens things up whenever he appears as a singer who always seems to be at the right place at the right time to offer up a tune that comments on Jim and Lauren’s relationship and push them in the right direction.

Blended’s soft box office take in its first weekend (a little over $14 million), along with the disappointing results of his last few features (Grown Ups 2, That’s My Boy), suggests that perhaps the Sandler gravy train has run out of steam. The actor has obviously forgotten and never learned that if you go to the same well too often it will run dry (one look at Burt Reynolds career is proof of that). The actor and all in his circle who work on his films seem to be having a good time and if that’s enough for them, so be it. Yet, when the best that can be said about your latest effort is on par with what Boston Herald film critic James Verniere writes – “it’s a lot less painful than anticipated,” – is it enough to be known as the guy who meets lowered expectations? For Sandler, I guess it is.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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