Movie Review: “Blended”

Starring
Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Bella Thorne, Terry Crews, Kevin Nealon, Wendy McLendon-Coven
Director
Frank Coraci

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.

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A Chat with Annie Ilonzeh (“Charlie’s Angels”)

“Charlie’s Angels,” ABC’s 2011 take on the classic chicks-kicking-ass concept, hasn’t exactly been setting the ratings on fire during its first few weeks on the air, but that’s not for lack of extremely dedicated actresses in the show’s cast. Take, for instance, Annie Ilonzeh, who plays Kate Prince on the series. Bullz-Eye had the chance to chat with the “General Hospital” alumnus just as “Angels” was about to take flight, and her enthusiasm and excitement about the series and her role proved decidedly infectious.

Bullz-Eye: So have you just finished a long day of filming?

Annie Ilonzeh: Yes, I have! So I’m sorry that I’m a little late calling.

BE: That’s quite all right. You have a good excuse, so you’re fine.

AI: (Laughs) Literally, it was perfect timing. I’m really surprised that it worked out. But after looking at the schedule, I figured, “Okay, we’re not going to be working ‘til 10 or 11 tonight.”

BE: Well, I’m glad you were able to finish in time to talk. I was at the TCA tour when you did the panel for “Charlie’s Angels,” but you all rushed off immediately afterward, so you weren’t around to chat at the party that night.

AI: Yeah, they had us in and out of there so quick! It was, like, “Get out of here and go back to Miami!” “Okay, okay!” So we were there for the panel that morning, and then we had a 2 PM flight or something crazy like that.

BE: You play Kate Prince on the show, and the one-liner ABC gives you in the press release is that you’re “a Miami cop who fell from grace, losing both her career and her fiancé.” Is that all they gave you to work with when you first got the role? Or did they even tell you which Angel you were going to be playing?

AI: Oh, yeah, I auditioned specifically for her. And, yeah, that was kind of the gist of it. Actually, I don’t think the ex-fiancé thing was in the breakdown as of that time, as in when I first auditioned. But when I auditioned, I kind of felt like things were a bit rougher at that time. They were still figuring things out. (Hesitates) Well, no, because originally I’d heard that they’d tried to attempt this a year ago, so I guess they kind of had an idea of the character. I just didn’t know about the ex-fiancé part very clearly. But slowly, through the four month audition process(Laughs) …I learned more about her and figured her out more, which was good for me. It was a long process, which sucks for any actor, because you wrack your brain and you’re, like, “Well, they didn’t say this, but they did say this, and she looked at me this way,” and…well, whatever. You just start making things up in your head, and it just gets crazy. But throughout that process, it did help me figure her out more. And I got to see producers more, and they got to see more. So it all worked out.

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Bullz-Eye’s 2011 Fall TV Preview: What’s New for ABC

Tuesday

Last Man Standing

(8 – 8:30 PM, Oct. 11)

The competition: NCIS (CBS), The Biggest Loser (NBC), Glee (Fox), 90210 (The CW)
Starring: Tim Allen, Nancy Travis, Kaitlyn Dever, Molly Ephraim, Alexandra Krosney, Christoph Sanders, Hector Elizondo

Executive producers: JackBurditt, Tim Allen, Marty Adelstein, Becky Clements, Shawn Levy, Richard Baker and Rick Messina

What the network says: “You can’t get manlier than Mike Baxter. He loves to have adventures while he’s traveling for work and, of course, he drives a pick-up truck. But Mike is about to find out that it’s not a man’s world anymore. While he might be king of the hill at work at an iconic outdoor sporting goods store, he’s the odd man out in a home dominated by his wife and three daughters. Today it’s a woman’s world, and this man’s man is on a mission to get men back to their rightful place in society. After being a stay-at-home mom for years, Mike’s wife, Vanessa, recently returned to the workplace and was quickly promoted — much to the dismay of her primarily male co-workers. Now that Vanessa’s work load has increased, Mike is pulled into more hands-on parenting than ever before. With things turned upside down at home, Mike’s last bastion of sanity – work – gets hit by change as well; his long-time boss and friend, Ed, announces that he’s grounding Mike from their catalogue’s international photo shoots and putting him in charge of the company’s webpage. But while adjusting to this new role, Mike discovers that the Internet might actually provide him just the outlet he needs, a platform that gives him a voice to appeal to those who agree that manliness is under assault, and a pulpit for his opinions about feeling like the last real man in a woman’s world. After all, men built civilizations, invented the locomotive and created ESPN, and Mike Baxter is determined to do what he must to reclaim his manly place in his home and at his job.”

What we say: It’s kind of hard to criticize “Last Man Standing” for having almost exactly the same mainstream manly-man tone as “Home Improvement” when Tim Allen freely admits that it’s something he’s making a conscious effort to re-stake his old territory. You can, however, criticize the series for not being very funny. Sure, it’s funny in a Tim Allen kind of way, but…oh, this way lies madness, so let’s just cut to the chase: basically, if you like broad comedy about a guy’s guy who’s annoyed with the fact that his brand of man is a dying breed, then you’ll like this show. I laughed a couple of times, but as I am not now nor have I ever been a guy’s guy, I walked away with little or no interest in ever watching another episode…which, come to think of it, is almost exactly the way I’ve always felt about “Home Improvement.” Based on this info, you can probably make your own judgement call as to whether or not you’ll have any interest in tuning in.

Man Up

(8:30 – 9 PM, Oct. 18)

The competition: NCIS (CBS), The Biggest Loser (NBC), Glee (Fox), 90210 (The CW)

Starring: Mather Zickel, Dan Fogler, Christopher Moynihan, Teri Polo, Amanda Detmer, Henry Simmons, Jake Johnson, Charlotte Labadie

Executive producers: Christopher Moynihan, Victor Fresco (“Better Off Ted”), and Ron West and Kelly Kulchak

What the network says: “Three modern male archetypes struggle as they search for their identities and try to prove that ‘real men’ really can use hazelnut creamer. Meet Will. Will’s grandfather fought in WWII. Will’s father fought in Vietnam. Will plays Call of Duty on his PS3 and drinks non-dairy hazelnut creamer. So what happened to all the real men? They’re still here — they just smell like pomegranate body wash now. Will’s evolved, sensitive nature is why his awesome wife, Theresa, married him. But he and his friends find themselves wondering… In a world of Axe ads and manscaping, what does it really mean to be a guy anymore? Will is more interested in finding the perfect gift for his son Nathan’s 13th birthday than in doing his job selling insurance; sensitive soul Craig still pines for his college ex, Lisa; and Kenny clamps down on his anger and asks himself, ‘What would Tobey Maguire do?,’ when his ex, Bridgette, starts seeing a guy who is everything he’s not and much better looking. After Craig crashes Lisa’s wedding to try to win her back, all three are faced with an opportunity to ‘man up’ and be like their forefathers.”

What we say: I swear it’s not because the lead character’s name is Will, but…I actually like this better than “Last Man Standing,” even though it’s ultimately covering a certain amount of the same ground. I think you can probably attribute that to executive producer Victor Fresco, whose presence always guarantees that the series won’t be 100% commercial. Speaking of ground that’s already been trod upon, there’s also an undeniable similarity between “Man Up” and Fox’s late, lamented mid-season series “Traffic Light.” (That’s not a bad thing for me, though, as I loved the series.) As for the cast, there are really only two matinee names: Teri Polo, of the “Meet the Parents” franchise, and Dan Fogler, who’s one of those guys who can take things so far over the top that he presents a major love-him-or-hate-him vibe. It must be said, though, that he pulls the majority of the biggest laughs in the pilot. As far as putting this alongside “Last Man Standing,” I don’t know if that’s a great move or not, since the similar premises will likely viewers to suspect that if they don’t like one, then they won’t like the other, but it’s not true: “Man Up” may not be spectacular, but it’s ten times funnier than its lead-in.

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