Blended (Frank Coraci, 2014)
So, you may ask, what was I doing at a preview screening of the latest Adam Sandler film? Well, possibly because the only two films in which I have liked Adam Sandler both had Drew Barrymore as his co-star. When I saw that she was along for the ride again, I figured that Blended might just have some of the charm and chemistry of The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates. To top it off, Frank Coraci – the directed of Blended – also directed The Wedding Singer. Of course, he also directed The Waterboy and Click, neither of which I liked, so maybe I should have considered that before nearly killing myself in rush-hour traffic to make it down to the cinema (far, far away).
You may have gathered from that opening paragraph that I did not like the film. You are correct. I did not. I did laugh a few times, however – even out loud – and I did, in fact, enjoy Drew Barrymore. Then again, I usually do, even in bad movies. I hated Sandler’s shuffling, mumbling boy-man – like “the waterboy” all grown up and somehow having convinced a woman to breed with him – and couldn’t get over the fact that his opening disrespectful treatment of Barrymore (he takes her to Hooters and then ignores her) was somehow put on an equal footing with her desire to have everything in her life be organized (she’s rigid! she’s OCD! what man would want that?). It’s a false equivalency, and I am getting really tired of films that portray women who are smart and neat as somehow in need of a comeuppance (see last year’s The Heat and The To Do List). Add to that some cloyingly sentimental scenes with children who miss the absent parent – she’s divorced and he’s widowed – and you get a recipe for “blech.” But soft! What light from yonder window breaks? Is it? Yes! It is! Something even more troubling: not one, not two, not three, but a whole nation’s worth of magical Negroes to help our protagonists find love.
Barrymore plays mother-of two divorcée Lauren; Sandler plays father-of-three widower Jim. She’s got boys; he’s got girls. They meet on a blind date, and it’s loathing at first site (and who can blame her?). But fate keeps throwing them together, and Lauren’s obligatory best friend (who is not part of the “magical Negro” equation, though Jim’s own best bud is) provides an inadvertent opportunity for both single-parent families to head to South Africa, the one oblivious to the other’s intentions. And so the 7 of them find themselves in a resort for “blended” families, and the mayhem truly begins. Since this is a romantic comedy, we already know how it will end. What’s unexpected is that, in 2014, we probably didn’t count on the use of a worn and tired trope of the tireless efforts of people of color to save whites from danger or, in this case, from themselves.
The film does have a few clever moments, such as a funny musical sequence involving different characters’ points of view as they see a previously frumpy woman (of course) transformed from ugly duckling to swan. It’s one of the best jokes … and the director uses it twice (and both times it is, to be fair, funny). Also, the audience I was with went crazy when muscular Terry Crews (Bridesmaids, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine“) appeared on screen, and even crazier when he started flexing his pecs. Other than that and some occasionally chuckle-worthy slapstick, there’s not much to save the film from its misguided and offensive premise. You have been warned.