Blended (2014)

I’ll give Blended credit for being slightly better than I expected it to be. It’s not a Jack & Jill level of failure, but I implore you not to take that as a recommendation. Just because something generates a few laughs over the course of a two-hour running time, that doesn’t mean that it’s worth watching. That’s especially the case with Blended, which is so bad for most of its running time that the few moments it’s not cringe worthy probably only stand out because they’re not absolutely horrible.

Part of the problem is an inefficient screenplay. Two hours is a long time for any comedy, but it feels particularly lengthy for this one. There are so many unnecessary scenes and so much time dedicated to concepts that aren’t difficult at all to grasp, and this leads to a bloated running time. A lot of this comes from the film trying to be funny during these moments — they aren’t “unnecessary” if we’re laughing — but since it only at the rarest points is, so much of the film feels like a complete waste.

Take, for example, how the main plot — about how two families go on a trip to Africa together despite never wanting to see each other again — takes over 30 minutes to even be hinted at. The first half hour of the movie gives us our one-note characters and sets up their respective situations, but the concepts it presents take maybe a scene, at most, to establish. Most of it is filled with crude (PG-13 crude) jokes that effectively serves as padding and nothing more. They’re not funny if you’re over the age of 12. Or, more correctly, that’s about the age I would have stopped laughing at them. Your mileage may vary. The cinema was packed and a lot of people were laughing harder than they’d admit to afterward.

The characters: Lauren (Drew Barrymore) is a recently divorced woman raising two young boys. She’s the over-controlling mother who needs to learn to loosen the reigns a touch. Her ex-husband (Joel McHale) cheated on her and seems to want nothing to do with their children. Meanwhile, Jim (Adam Sandler) is a recent widower raising three young girls. One of them is 15 but is treated like a teenage boy, not a girl. Another one speaks to her (invisible) dead mother. Another one is young and cute and the film really wants her to be its scene-stealer.

Jim and Lauren wind up on a date, but it doesn’t go well. Soon enough, the two families are in Africa together, doing a tour for “blended” families. The details of this are convoluted and happen in mere moments. It takes about one scene for everything to go from relatively normal to “We’re in Africa!” And then we’re there, and we get to watch (racist portrayals of Africans) and familial “bonding.”

That’s Blended‘s whole “thing,” by the way. Over the course of the vacation, the two families who previously wanted nothing to do with one another will become inseparable. The kids will start to get along, and the parents will fall in love. There will be no doubt about any of this, at least, not until the very end, when forced drama brings about just a slight bit of uncertainty. Such is the rom-com formula, although this one has absolutely no drama or tension for the vast majority of its running time. By the time we get to Africa, pretty much everyone will know how it’s going to end.

It’s predictable and boring, and doesn’t offer much for the viewer other than a “sincere” movie filled with raunchy jokes — but not too raunchy, because of the PG-13 rating. I can’t think of a reason to watch this, unless of course this brand of humor is to your liking. As I said, a lot of people laughed a great deal. I just wasn’t one of them.

Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore have now starred in three movies together. The Wedding Singer was the first one, and its director, Frank Coraci, reunites the pairing for Blended. Here’s my question: why? Adam Sandler has proven that he can be a good actor — even if he phones it in when starring in these types of movies — but Drew Barrymore is far more often than not terrible, and her acting is frequently cringe worthy here. None of the jokes that revolve around her work, the two don’t have much chemistry, and she can’t pull off a single scene. It’s painful.

Do you know what the movie really feels like? An excuse for the actors to go on an African vacation. Sure, they also made a movie, but isn’t it interesting how Adam Sandler vehicles often get to go to random vacation destinations? He’s not somebody who needs money at this point, so perhaps going on vacation with his cast members takes a higher priority over making good movies.

Blended is tolerable for the most part, but it would have benefited from a more efficient screenplay or editor which would have seen its running time chopped by about 45 minutes. It contains so many unnecessary scenes that add nothing, and character “depth” that is so shallow it barely even takes a scene to establish. It’s too sincere and predictable that any drama it tries to muster feels forced, and its characters are one-note caricatures. Some people will like it for its comedy, but unless you like current-era PG-13 Adam Sandler movies, you’ll want to skip this.

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