Blended is destined to be the underrated and, understandably so, underestimated comedy of the year.”

Blended is the most watchable Adam Sandler film in a while, and that’s saying something for the man who just cranked out two lousy comedies and refers to his most recent film efforts as “paid vacations.” With Blended, there is rare and cherishable dramatic leverage to match the goofy comedy at hand, and while not all the comedy works favorably, the jokes and gags we’re given are much more competent and easier to laugh at than the barrage of racist, sexist, and slapstick humor we’ve gotten from Sandler recently.

The film revolves around Jim Friedman (Adam Sandler), a goofy and socially inept manchild who is raising three girls without the help of his wife, who died years ago. He goes on a blind date with a divorced woman named Lauren Reynolds (Drew Barrymore) as his attempt to get back in the dating game. Lauren also has two rambunctious boys of her own, so together, they form their equally mismatched Brady Bunch. Despite instance relatability, the date leads to nothing but disastrous results and a miserable experience for both of them.

Blended
Directed by
Frank Coraci
Cast
Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Wendi McLendon-Covey
Release Date
23 May 2014
Steve’s Grade: B

After Lauren’s immediate friends call off their vacation to Africa, Lauren accepts her girlfriend’s ticket, while Jim calls his boss – who supplied her girlfriend’s boyfriend’s ticket – and takes it, without Lauren’s knowledge. Upon arrival to Africa, the two meet each other and are both surprised, but also have their gaggle of children by their side. Jim’s three daughters are the tomboyish Hillary (Bella Thorne), the grieving Espn (pronounced “Espen,” and played by Emma Fuhrmann), named after her father’s favorite TV network, and the youngest Lou (Alyvia Alyn Lind). Lauren’s two boys are the mommy-dependent Brendan (Braxton Beckham) and the short-tempered, younger-half Tyler (Kyle Red Silverstein). All together, they endure an awkward getaway with very loose acquaintances on a vacation meant for devoted couples.

For starters, the film is greatly buoyed by a strong supporting cast, and the fact that writers Clare Sera and Ivan Menchell don’t put all their chips on Sandler for comedic effect. The film has a welcomed focus on Drew Barrymore throughout most of the film, and relies on their nimble chemistry to carry the film, rather than Sandler’s usual bouts of extreme, simple-minded idiocy. Key supporting players are Terry Crews, as a frequently-appearing African singer who chimes in at the right time when Jim and Lauren are nearing intimacy, Kevin Nealon and Jessica Rowe as a couple with extreme marital openness (that doesn’t cater to the usual brand of childish humor), and the unforgettable Abdoulaye N’Gom, playing the helping hand to Jim and Lauren, who consistently finds ways to charm and surprise in Sandler films.


The second helpful addition is that Jim’s girls and Lauren’s boys are effectively humanized, given Sera and Menchell’s liberal use of time in Blended, as it makes use of one-hundred and seventeen minutes. Rather than having the film’s child actors – especially the wonderful Bella Thorne and Emma Fuhrmann who don’t deserve to have their time wasted by third-rate material – be broadly-drawn caricatures, the film makes use of their charisma and character emotions by giving them identities and real problems.

Admittedly, the film gets off to a rocky half-hour, with an uneven mix of slapstick comedy and sentimental drama, which finds itself poorly mixed under fragmented writing. However, things take shape once both clans travel to Africa and the film takes a more controlled, grounded stance. Some of the best scenes come when Sandler and Barrymore are simply interacting, creating the same unmistakable chemistry they had in the underrated 50 First Dates. Sandler and company have effectively created a more watchable and funnier Just Go With It, out of similar and more heartfelt material, proving he still has the ability to surprise and please.

On a final note, with Frank Coraci at the driver’s seat, there seems to be a pleasantly open-minded approach to the film’s many subjects. Rather than poking fun at Jim’s girls’ shortcomings, or Lauren’s boys’ hormones, the film takes a more careful look at their troubles and, while offering some comedy in their way, also explores the ideas with a touch of drama and heart. After several Sandler efforts (specifically That’s My Boy), Sandler seemed to have total disregard for every character that wasn’t him. Instead, Sandler seems much more positive and understanding here towards other characters.

If I could compare Sandler to any other film personality today, it’d be Tyler Perry. Both directors have had considerable down points, some truly awful films in their respective filmographies, and some irritating contrivances in each of their films. However, due to their reputation – and evident low-expectations and assumptions of their audience – their films get awful reviews regardless of the quality and their box office performance declines. Credit needs to be given to Sandler, in this case, for at least helping to offer in interesting dramatic leverage here – dramatic leverage that doesn’t cease even after the characters return from the main setting of Africa. Blended is destined to be the underrated and, understandably so, underestimated comedy of the year.

Review by Lead Film Critic, Steve Pulaski