Director: Frank Coraci
Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Wendi McLendon-Covey
117 mins; Class 12; KRS
I try to approach any film starring Adam Sandler with an open mind. Honestly. But barely is he on screen a couple of minutes than I have a Pavlovian response to his presence and I begin to fidget and roll my eyes. The reason for this is two-fold.
First of all, Sandler portrays the same man-child character in virtually each of his films. A man perpetually in arrested development who refuses to (or can’t) grow up. He has relationship issues, a juvenile obsession with sex, a voice that often begins to grate, and a wardrobe consisting of sportswear. From one film to the next he seems unwilling – or unable – to attempt a different persona or add any depth to his characters.
Secondly, the storylines of Sandler’s films are wildly predictable. The humour therein consists of a pattern of sexual innuendo, toilet gags and whiffs of misogyny that have sadly become the staple of many a title in the comedy genre. There is only so much one can swallow the same shtick film after film.
Granted, I do not form part of the Sandler target demographic – the young male – and, clearly, he is on to something. He is a veteran of over 30 movies, and most of his output has enjoyed box office success, so he is laughing all the way to the bank.
Sandler may argue that he has no need to venture out of his comfort zone. Yet, when he does, he can be surprisingly good, as witnessed in the 2002 drama Punch-Drunk Love. But this was the exception that proves the rule.
Sandler portrays the same man-child character in virtually each of his films
In 1998’s The Wedding Singer Sandler played a more sympathetic version of the character he now regurgitates. That film was the first time Sandler teamed up with Drew Barrymore. They also starred together in 50 First Dates, which was less successful, and the duo seems to be at the wrong end of a diminishing quality returns curve with Blended.
Sandler and Barrymore play Jim and Lauren, a widower and divorcee who go on a blind date which ends in disaster. A ludicrous plot twist has them sharing a holiday at a South African holiday resort for a week with their respective children. The children bond; will the parents? Will the sun rise tomorrow?
While pretty much treading the same path of a typical Sandler film in terms of paper-thin characters and obvious outcome, Blended is rendered marginally bearable by the presence of the ever-affable Barrymore and the bunch of kids, whose myriad trials blend some meat into the bare bones plot.
Lauren’s kids are a horny teenage boy and a younger son who misses his dad. Jim is clearly unable to deal with his three daughters; the eldest of whom is a tomboy who is discovering her femininity, the younger still mourning her mum. The kids are well-portrayed, their storylines presented with little mawkishness and some genuine humour.
Had screenwriters Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera developed these storylines a little further, the film would have been on to a good thing. But the focus is on the adults, and we are still subjected to an overdose of clumsy crassness (including tampon and period jokes, and an over-sexed couple played by Kevin Nealon and Jessica Lowe) that very easily dampens any goodwill towards the Sandler archetype we may have mustered.