May 23, 2014

Blended

starhalf

A movie review by James Berardinelli



Blended

ROMANCE/COMEDY:

United States, 2014

U.S. Release Date:

2014-05-23

Running Length:

1:57

MPAA Classification:

PG-13 (Profanity, Sexual Content)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

1.85:1

Cast:

Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Kevin Nealon, Terry Crews, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Bella Thorne

Director:

Frank Coraci

Screenplay:

Ivan Menchell, Claire Sera

Cinematography:

Julio Macat

Music:

Rupert Gregson-Williams

U.S. Distributor:

Warner Brothers

Subtitles:

none


Certain expectations accompany any Adam Sandler film, although expectations have morphed over the years as Sandler has aged and attempted to broaden his target audience. Many of his best films, such as Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch Drunk Love, have been met with a lukewarm reaction by Sandler die-hards. Of late, he has descended into a morass of sub-mediocrity, churning out movies that have varied from forgettable to unwatchable. Seeking to regain some box office traction, Sandler has reunited with two-time co-star Drew Barrymore and returned to the rom-com field that proved successful with The Wedding Singer (which I didn't much care for) and 50 First Dates (which I did). Coming along for the ride is Sandler's long-time collaborator, Frank Coraci, who has directed three of the comedian's previous outings (including The Wedding Singer), although the credited screenwriters, Ivan Menchell and Claire Sera, have never written for Sandler before. It's tough to say whether the lackluster Blended is the result of a bad script of whether Sandler and Coraci did unfortunate things to something better written. In the end, it doesn't matter - despite the change in tone and genre, Blended still falls into the "forgettable to unwatchable" category.

Early in the proceedings, Blended doesn't feel like any kind of Sandler movie we've seen before. The first scene, which chronicles a disastrous blind date between Jim (Sandler) and Lauren (Barrymore), has an almost surreal sensibility and the scenes that immediately follow are equally low-key and devoid of energetic humor. Eventually, the film amps up the quantity of its physical humor but the trite, leaden romance weighs down the proceedings like an anchor. The sparks apparent in the most recent Sandler/Barrymore outing, 50 First Dates, are absent here. The actors are going through the motions. And, while there's always a fair amount of predictability in romantic comedies, Blended is so obvious about its intentions that the inevitable resolution doesn't offer the usual little thrill that comes with the validation of the fantasy. Blended's presentation of the romance is so lazy that it borders on incompetent.

The narrative relies on theČ contrivance of having widower Jim and his three daughters and divorcee Lauren and her two sons trapped in the same suite during a vacation in South Africa. In the wake of the bad blind date, Jim and Lauren aren't on friendly terms but Jim bonds with one of Lauren's sons by teaching him how to play baseball and Lauren connects with one of Jim's daughters by giving her a makeover. The story plods along like that until Jim and Lauren eventually realize they were meant to be together despite the interference of Lauren's devious ex-husband.

What's missing from Blended? Two key ingredients: it doesn't touch the heart and it doesn't tickle the funny bone (at least not often enough). Even bad romantic comedies usually enable the viewer to become invested in the central romance. In Blended, we don't care. It's of little interest whether Jim and Lauren end up together. And the hit-and-miss humor doesn't do an adequate job of filling the breach left by the love story's failure. I'm sure I laughed a few times during Blended but I can't remember what I was laughing at. Probably some Sandler pratfall. (Thankfully, the movie is low on bodily fluids jokes, which makes for a pleasant change of pace.)

There are a few devices that add a little spice to the otherwise drab proceedings. On a couple of occasions when a character makes a grand entrance, the soundtrack provides us with a montage of different pop songs to reflect the reactions of those who are watching. Then there's an offbeat "Greek chorus" led by Terry Crews. This becomes overused but, at least in the beginning, it's an amusing conceit. Counterbalancing the good points, however, are the overabundance of product placements, with Hooters and Dick's Sporting Goods getting undue attention.

To be fair, Sandler is fine in this role. He's not annoying; in fact, he's kind of likeable. Likewise, Drew Barrymore is okay. The problem lies in the story and the manner in which Coraci attempts to spin his romantic web. It comes apart in tatters leaving the viewer to conclude that, at least insofar as these two stars are concerned, the third time is definitely not the charm.

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