Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler have a not very nifty first date at Hooters in "Blended." Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
'Blended' Director: Frank Coraci Stars: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore Rating: PG-13 2 (out of 5) Globes
“Blended” begins with Adam Sandler taking a blind date to a Hooters. Despite being a father of three daughters, Sandler’s Jim doesn’t notice Lauren (Drew Barrymore) is fuming, perhaps because he's staring slackjawed at the World’s Strongest Man competition on the TV. Jokes are made and then he breaks out the news that his wife died from cancer. That’s the proven Adam Sandler formula: a mish-mash of broad bro yuks suddenly interrupted by heaping helpings of “heart.” The Sandler empire has made over 20 films and the operation has never gotten better at smoothing over these rough spots. In fact, they’ve gotten worse, because there’s no reason to fix what paying audiences won’t say is broken.
“Blended” is actually one of the “better” Sandler films, which is to say it’s sometimes almost half-tolerable. Barrymore is key: As in “The Wedding Singer,” she brings out…well, not a lot in her unfailingly lazy co-star, but something. Here, they’re warring single parents who are supposed to fall gradually in love when they wind up sharing a family suite in a lavish African resort. Which country they’re in is, of course, never revealed; hey, it’s only a continent. (It’s actually South Africa.) And the machinations it takes to get them there are both convoluted and nonsensical: Jim orchestrates it despite finding her a shrill, overprotective harpy.
The bulk of the film is regulated to regimented activities — safari, paragliding, ostrich riding — and to Sandler playing father figure to Barrymore’s two sons while Barrymore teaches Sandler’s daughters to stick to gender norms. But the heart is the budding romance, and “Blended” does come alive when their fights dissolve into flirtations — their weirdly palpable chemistry finally clicking into place. Even some of the emotional scenes are actually moving, as when Barrymore sings “Under the Rainbow” to his three, motherless daughters. Sandler himself has already played a widower, in “Reign Over Me,” one of his sporadic serious ventures. You can see his Jim retreating into his man-boy shell, using goofiness and occasional hostility to mask his grief, especially from his daughters.
Or is Sandler just being his usual remote and tired self? Most of the time, to be honest, he just seems to be in another Adam Sandler film, sleepily going through pop culture references and product placements. (Jim even wears his Dick's Sporting Goods work shirt on a date.) When Jim uses his dead wife to drive a wedge between he and Lauren, it simply feels like an insincere attempt to make the film even longer than it is. Frankly, that “Blended” is genuinely sweet at all — which is to say about three or four times — is enough to overrate it.