Memorial Day weekend has arrived, which means it’s time for the major studios to take advantage of the holiday by releasing films with the broadest possible appeal. And right on time, the Adam Sandler stupidity train rolls into town with “Blended,” a family-friendly rom com that reteams him with his “50 First Dates” and “The Wedding Singer” costar, Drew Barrymore.
Within the formulaic parameters of a rom com, “Blended” is a home run: it contains the undeniable chemistry between its two leads that made their previous collaborations such a success, the goofy toilet humor that appeals to teenagers and likeminded adults who were raised on the Sandler essentials (“Billy Madison,” “Happy Gilmore”), and some feel-good family moments to boot. To be sure, “Blended” has no shortage of the canned jokes, lazy pop culture references, excessive physical comedy and quantity-over-quality style that has become synonymous with the Happy Madison imprint. Even still, it’s an enjoyable, lighthearted diversion that’s infinitely better than Sandler’s recent efforts (I’m looking at you, “Jack and Jill” and the “Grown Ups” franchise). And while some viewers may be put off by a film that so blatantly appeals to the lowest common denominator, it’s difficult not to be won over by the sheer lunacy of it all.
Sandler plays Jim, a manager at Dick’s Sporting Goods and the widower father of three daughters. When Jim isn’t on the sales floor working alongside Shaquille O’Neal, he’s raising his eldest and middle daughters like tomboys (one is nicknamed Larry; the other’s actual name is Espn, like the sports channel) while trying to keep his youngest girl out of trouble.
Barrymore plays Lauren, a divorced mother of two sons who works as a personal closet organizer, which apparently consists of folding clothes and gossiping with her best friend and coworker, Jen (a hilarious Wendi McLendon-Covey). Much like Jim, Lauren is also pulling double duty with work and parenting since her deadbeat ex (Joel McHale) always cops out of taking their youngest to his little league games or helping out with their hormone-raging, porn-obsessed teenage son.
Even though Jim and Lauren’s love lives are virtually nonexistent due to their busy schedules, they somehow wind up on a blind date, and, as one might expect, it’s an absolute disaster (he takes her to Hooter’s). If these two had it their way, they’d never see each other again. But, this being an Adam Sandler movie, where jokes and plot conveniences always trump plausibility, we know it won’t be long before their paths cross. It just so happens that Jen is dating the Dick of Dick’s Sporting Goods and was supposed to go on an African safari with him but abruptly cancels upon learning that he has five kids. When Jim and Lauren catch wind of the nonrefundable trip being canceled, they both make a play for the vacation package, unbeknownst to each other.
It turns out that not only are they staying at the same African resort, they’ve also been booked in the same “familymoon” suite, which caters to couples with kids. Being in such close quarters, the pair has no choice but to make the best of their situation, and of course along the way their feelings for each other blossom. Meanwhile, all sorts of Sandler-expected African hijinks ensue.
Although the setup – two people who can’t stand each other are forced to go on vacation together – may not be earth-shatteringly original, it’s sturdy enough for director Frank Coraci (“The Wedding Singer”) and screenwriters Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera to create some pretty hilarious set pieces around it, maximizing the African setting as well as the Sandler-Barrymore chemistry. Some standout moments include an ostrich ride that goes awry, a disastrous parasailing tour, baseball practice with a famous cricket player, and pretty much everything involving the hotel harmony group, Thathoo, fronted by the formidable Nickens (Terry Crews at his most manic). Memorable characters include the horny newlyweds Eddy and Ginger (Kevin Nealon and newcomer Jessica Lowe), the hotel concierge, Mfana (Abdoulaye NGom), and some very talented monkeys.
Nobody goes to see a Sandler film for the inventiveness of the plot, the quality of the acting, or basically anything else that most films are judged by, so it’s pointless to get caught up with the plot holes, the predictability of the storyline, or the fact that it’s roughly twenty five minutes too long. Sandler and his cohorts are able to sidestep the normal criteria for quality filmmaking by conducting a full-on assault of idiocy on the audience. This barrage of stupidity has, at least for me, a cumulative effect wherein around the halfway mark of any Sandler film, I’m prone to fits of uncontrollable laughter, typically at a point that isn’t even particularly funny. I go from saying, “God, this movie is stupid” to “Ha, this is kinda stupid” to “I love how stupid this is.” Let’s call it the Sandler Phenomenon.
No one is going to confuse “Blended” with a quality movie, nor should they. It’s frivolous fun for those susceptible to silliness.
By Lucas Mirabella
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language, 117 minutes