Adam Sandler hasn’t made that many good movies in his 20-year career, but the ones co-starring Drew Barrymore are some of his best, so it’s no surprise to see the duo teaming up again for a third romantic comedy with “Blended.” It couldn’t have been a very hard sell for Barrymore, who probably jumped at the chance for a free trip to Africa, even if it is their weakest collaboration yet. And while “Blended” isn’t as aggressively terrible as the actor’s recent crop of films, it’s not very funny either – a dumb and uneven rom-com that can’t seem to find a balance between Sandler’s typical man-child antics and his rarer, more grown-up side.
It’s been a long time since Jim (Sandler) and Lauren (Barrymore) have been on a date, and their inexperience shows when they agree to be set up by some mutual friends. It doesn’t go very well (or about as well as you’d expect for any blind date that takes place at Hooters), and they vow to never see each other again. After all, their lives are already busy enough with their kids – Jim is a widowed father of three daughters and Lauren is a recently divorced mother of two boys – whom they’re having difficulty raising on their own. But when a unique opportunity arises to take their respective families on an incredible vacation getaway to Africa, Jim and Lauren can’t wait to tell their children, completely unaware that they’ve both landed the same deal. Worse yet, because of the nature of how they got the trip, all of their activities and meals at the resort are planned together, and you can pretty much guess what happens from there.
“Blended” is basically “The Brady Bunch” by way of Sandler’s goofball brand of humor, with the slight twist that each parent’s children are the opposite gender. It’s a cute idea, but it gets old real fast as the script constantly tries to mine laughs out of the same few jokes – particularly one about how Jim’s daughters don’t look like girls because they have pageboy haircuts and wear tracksuits. (He gets most of their clothes through his job at Dick’s Sporting Goods, one of many blatant product placements in the film.) All five children have their own specific problems to overcome, with the other parent stepping up to the plate to help them in ways that their actual parent isn’t equipped to handle. Jim’s eldest daughter (who’s crushing on an Edward Cullen lookalike at the resort) and Lauren’s youngest son get the most screen time, but all of the kids feel more like plot points on a checklist than real people.
With that said, there’s something much sweeter and more emotional at work with Sandler’s character than you normally find in one of his movies (his wife died of cancer and he’s handling the single parent thing pretty well considering the circumstances), although it’s constantly being undermined by stupid stuff like ostrich rodeos, bad child actors and rhinos having sex. Many of the recurring gags aren’t even funny the first time around, with the exception of the wacky lounge singer played by Terry Crews, who’s probably the funniest part of the film. It’s a fun, throwaway character that benefits greatly from Crews’ enthusiastic performance, but it’s still very much part of the problem.
The only thing that saves “Blended” from descending too far into the usual Happy Madison sophomoric comedy is the scenes between Sandler and Barrymore, who pick up right where they left off with “The Wedding Singer” and “50 First Dates.” Barrymore always seems to bring out the best in Sandler, and the two actors have an undeniable chemistry that is fun to watch develop onscreen. There’s absolutely no need for the will-they-won’t-they drama to last nearly two hours, but the duo at least makes it a little more bearable, and that’s about the best that can be said for “Blended,” which is merely just forgettable rather than unforgettably bad.