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"BLENDED"
(2014) (Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: After a disastrous first date, a widower and father of three daughters and a recent divorcee and mother of two sons find themselves on the same African safari together with their five total kids.
PLOT:
Jim (ADAM SANDLER) is a lonely widower trying his best to raise three daughters: tomboy teenager Hilary (BELLA THORNE), who he calls "Larry;" troubled tween Espn (EMMA FUHRMANN), who still pretends her mother is with the family only invisible; and precocious 6-year-old Lou (ALYVIA ALYN LIND), who sometimes likes to freak out her dad by talking in a possessed child voice. Lauren (DREW BARRYMORE) is a broken-hearted divorcee trying her best to raise two sons: middle-school-age Brendan (BRAXTON BECKHAM), who doesn't want his mom to move on to a new man; and young Tyler (KYLE RED SILVERSTEIN), who is having troubles controlling his temper and needs a father figure.

Jim and Lauren get fixed up on a blind date by Lauren's best friend, Jen (WENDI McLENDON COVEY), and it goes bad. Really bad. But circumstances keep throwing them back together. As fate would have it, both get booked on the same trip to a resort in Africa for a Spring Break-themed week meant to bring together "blended" families. There, they come in contact with a goofy hotel manager named Mfana (ABDOULAYE NGOM); a lounge singer named Nickens (TERRY CREWS); and are table mates with an overly affectionate newlywed couple, Eddy (KEVIN NEALON) and Ginger (JESSICA LOWE), and his teenage son, Jake (ZAK HENRI).

Jim and Lauren and the two families do bond on the trip. But Jim is unsure if he can really move on from the loss of his beloved wife. Once back in the States, Lauren's philandering ex-husband, Mark (JOEL McHALE), gets wind that there might be a new man in his ex-wife's life and plots to get back together with her.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
This past month, Sirius XM satellite radio has been airing the Billy Joel Channel. In past interviews, Adam Sandler has listed Joel as one of his favorite performers. And while I watching his new film, "Blended," the other night in preview, I kept hearing the singer's '80s classic "Leave a Tender Moment Alone" in my head. You see, "Blended" is one of those Sandler flicks that goes for family schmaltz or aging frat-boy smut. It's cute and cuddly, a romantic comedy with family sitcom sensibilities. And there are some really nice moments woven into the script involving Sandler and Drew Barrymore as single parents trying to connect with their troubled kids.

But almost every time the film came close to delivering a heartfelt and, yes, tender moment, Sandler and his gang of yes-men hooligans would undermine it with some dumb, sophomoric gag just to show the audience, "Hey, we haven't gone completely soft! We're still the guys who find making fart sounds with our underarms the funniest thing EVER!"

And that's too bad. Watching "Blended," I felt like the stern-faced Russian judge at the Olympics giving points to skaters who executed certain moves, then taking points away for slips, trips, stumbles, and fumbles. Why can't Sandler and his peeps have a little more faith in their audience that they don't need the bits that were funny when he and his co-stars were doing them 15 and 20 years ago? If you're looking to deliver a more mature and heartfelt movie ... do so!

"Blended" stars Sandler as Jim, a recent widower trying his best to raise three daughters. One is a tomboy who he takes to his own barber who only knows how to do Prince Valiant haircuts. The middle child has real problems in that she still believes her mother lives with them, but is just invisible now. The youngest is the most well-adjusted, but she still speaks a fake demon voice every once in a while to get what she wants. What is Jim to do?

Barrymore, meanwhile, plays recent divorcee Lauren, who is trying her best to raise two sons who also have issues. The older one is not ready to see his mother move on with another man, while the younger one has anger management issues and throws temper tantrums whenever he strikes out at Little League games. Her unfaithful ex-husband is completely self-absorbed and is no help. What is she to do?

Jim and Lauren are set up on a blind date that goes really bad. But through the mechanics of the plot, they and their respective kids end up on the same African safari vacation. Through the shared adventure, the two families do indeed blend. But there are still issues that prevent Jim and Lauren from getting together, not the least of which is Jim's fear of moving on.

As you can see, there are some fairly serious themes and subplots at play in "Blended." When you introduce situations such as death from cancer and divorce resulting from adultery, it's a bit hard to still shoehorn gags involving masturbation, menstruation, and the like. For instance, there is a really nice moment where the tomboy daughter has gotten a makeover and attracted the interest of a boy also dealing with a newly blended family situation. The two go on a safari, really bond, really click, they're about to share their first kiss, and -- BAM! -- a camel comes between the two and gives the boy a big, wet, sloppy tongue kiss.

In another instance, Lauren sings Jim's daughters to sleep with the same song their mom used to sing to them at night. It's a lovely moment, well acted ... and completely undone by Jim peeing just a few feet outside the girls' tent. He then scares Lauren when she emerges from the tent by telling her a gorilla is about to attack.

Sandler is like the guy in church who has a good voice, but is afraid to sing too loud. He's like the jock in class who is too "ashamed" to raise his hand because he knows the answer. I hope he gets past these feelings and tendencies. Because audiences need good family comedies. Unfortunately, "Blended" is a mix that just doesn't quite come together. I give it a 4.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed May 19, 2014 / Posted May 23, 2014


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