Adam Sandler has been on a roll lately — making some of the worst, laziest, most witless comedies of all time. So to discover that Blended is amusing and even a little bit sweet comes as the best sort of shock after the atrocities perpetrated by Grown Ups 2, That’s My Boy and Jack and Jill.
Of course Sandler benefits from his best co-star here (Drew Barrymore), who worked with him on 50 First Dates and The Wedding Singer, and he’s also got Wedding Singer director Frank Coraci on board. Also, there’s a script, and Brady Bunch-esque though it might be, at least there is a script. There’s still some question as to whether Grown Ups 2 even bothered to slap one together.
Sandler and Barrymore star as Jim and Lauren, single parents who go on a spectacularly bad blind date (for starters, he takes her to Hooter’s, though not for the reasons you might think). He’s a widower with three tomboyish daughters; she’s divorced from a slick jerk (Joel McHale) and raising two hellion boys without a lot of help.
But nothing ignites between them except frustration, disgust and contempt. They run into each other in a drugstore one night and can’t even end that encounter on a polite note.
Then, one breakup of mutual friends and much willing suspension of disbelief later, Jim and Lauren and their kids all end up sharing a suite on a trip to Africa, the purpose of which is to celebrate “blended” families. Neither Jim nor Lauren wants to do anything together, but the price is right, and they figure at least the kids will have fun.
You don’t need me to tell you what happens over the course of the week, but to the movie’s credit it manages just the right balance of slapstick and sentimentality. This isn’t high-brow or intelligent humor, but there are plenty of funny bits here, including an increasingly bizarre Terry Crews and a group of singers who periodically pop up as a sort of Greek chorus while Jim and Lauren bond with each other’s kids and start to eye one another with curiosity instead of animosity.
Sandler and Barrymore have a nice comic chemistry, which is not an incidental; it’s a requirement for romantic comedy, and way too many rom coms fall apart without it). There are a couple of touching moments, but true to form, any mushy stuff is swiftly overshadowed by a joke. Blended isn’t Sandler’s funniest movie or his best, but it is a big step up from the dregs he’s been churning out, a messy, shaggy dog of a comedy that you can’t help but like even as it sheds all over your house.
Cast: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Terry Crews, Kevin Nealon, Bella Thorne.
Director: Frank Coraci.
Screenwriters: Ivan Menchell, Clare Sera.
A Warner Bros. release. Running time: 117 minutes. Crude and sexual content and language. Opens Friday May 23 at area theaters.