‘Blended’ isn’t really bad, but it isn’t ‘Happy Gilmore’

By Gary Clift

“Blended” is probably a little better than par for the Adam Sandler movie course, though golf metaphors may remind readers of the comedian’s “Happy Gilmore,” a film which benefits from a few surreal passages and from Sandler’s all-in characterization.

“Blended” isn’t really bad. But it isn’t “Happy Gilmore,” either. I figure this leaves it in the middle level for American twenty-first century cinematic entertainments.

Frank Corasi directed the new movie, as he did “The Wedding Singer,” an earlier collaboration with both Sandler and Drew Barrymore. But before we conclude that Corasi is responsible for limiting a lot of the Jerry Lewis touches that have ruined the Sandler movies directed by Dennis Dugan, we should remember that Corasi also did “Blink,” a movie almost as unattractive as Dugan’s awful “Jack and Jill.”

Now “Blended” does seem to have been written (by Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera) with utter lowest-common-denominator cynicism. “You know,” someone in the office may have said, “there are a lot of families out there where two divorced people each bring kids into the new unit. Maybe we could attract some ticket sales by giving these people a movie about characters with their problems.”

Of course divorce court reasoning being what it has been, usually divorced fathers don’t get full custody. To fix that problem, the script here has Sandler play a widower. Jim, who works at Dick’s Sporting Goods, has three daughters. He gets their hair cut at the barber shop. He is embarrassed buying feminine sanitary products. And that seems to be the extent of his family’s problems.

Lauren (Barrymore) is a professional closet organizer and half owner of a company called “Closet Queens.” She has two boys. Their father and her ex-husband can’t be depended on to show up for Cookie League games or to give masculine advice.

Lauren and Jim meet on a disastrous first date (they go to Hooters for dinner). But they also each buy part of a trip to a South African resort when its original purchaser can’t make use of the booking. Of course it turns out that Jim is able to help Lauren’s boys; he helps the younger one with batting practice, for example. And Lauren is able to help the girls; she helps the older one get dolled up to attract a teen tourist played by Zac Henry (who was in the late and lamented t.v. series Bunheads).

This gender specific parental guidance ought to be the central business of the movie. But the story is really only an excuse for puns and physical comedy and such and then for sentiment, which always features in Sandler movies. Not much of “Blended” is funny. I did get a smile when Jim called lanky Henry “Skeletor,” but that was probably the closest I got to laughing as the film ran.

What Corasi does that is creditable is hold back the syrupy sweetness that so often makes one want to run from an auditorium in which a Sandler comedy is playing. “Blended” isn’t too sweet. Or at least it isn’t way too sweet.

It does run the risk of cliché management of its Black African characters. They are a jolly bunch, but they are pretty much spectators throughout the film. Sandler’s movies have often been characterized by their use of 80s pop music—none of that here—and recurring secondary characters played by the star’s old show biz buddies.

There is a bit of that here. Kevin Nealon, Shaquile O’Neal, and Dan Patrick (playing sporting goods “Dick”) all get shots. But there are more young Sandlers in the cast than old movie buddies. The one known actor who does get a splashy part is Terry Crews, who plays the leader of an African a cappella chorus (think Ladysmith Black Mambazo) that shows up maybe half a dozen times during the film to comment on or set up scenes. A chorus acting as a Classical Greek “chorus”—that idea had to amuse somebody who was writing this movie.

But the movie itself only just manages to amuse its ticket holders. Barrymore comes off pretty well here. O’Neal gets into his character. And the sentiment isn’t annoying. What more can one ask of an Adam Sandler comedy? Limited expectations aren’t that hard to fulfill.

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