When it comes to Adam Sandler movies, I think many critics have their verbal razors sharpened before they even enter the theater, deciding in advance that the film will be awful...it’s just a matter of how awful. That’s understandable. I’ve never been a fan myself. From his SNL days, where he always appeared ready to burst out laughing at his own jokes, to a shockingly-enduring film career where he nearly always plays the same guy (an impish oaf with a severe case of Peter Pan Syndrome), I simply never found him very funny. I’m in the minority on this…you wouldn’t believe the number of friends and co-workers incredulous that I hated Happy Gilmore. But what can I say? Sandler’s brand of adolescent humor just rubs me the wrong way.
So it really surprised me that, at times, I kind-of liked Blended, even though it was raked across the critical coals as severely as other recent Sandler suppositories and most of his fans stayed away in droves. It’s far from a masterpiece...incredibly predictable, loaded with the usual scatological humor, over-the-top characters, stupid slapstick and Sandler’s entourage of celebrity buddies shoe-horned in (though Rob Schneider is mercifully absent).
And it starts off awful, with Sandler and Drew Barrymore (pairing up for the third time) as single parents whose disastrous blind date leaves them with a profound dislike for each other. These first twenty minutes or so are almost painfully bad, and if Blended had continued down this road, it’s doubtful I’d have survived the trip.
But once far-fetched circumstances has both families ending up vacationing in South Africa together, Blended improves considerably. While not often laugh-out-loud funny, with intrusive minor characters turning up for cheap laughs, it’s affably amusing, even sentimentally charming at times (though some viewers might consider that latter point more of a liability). By dialing-down his screaming manchild schtick, Sandler is quite likable here, choosing to act rather that act-out. Much of the time, Barrymore isn’t given a hell of a lot to do but look exasperated, but she and Sandler have some undeniable chemistry together.
Storywise, there are absolutely no surprises. For its entire running time, you’ll definitely feel like you’ve seen this movie before, but Blended isn’t the first family comedy guilty of such a crime. And yeah, it is essentially a family comedy, sort of a Brady Bunch with boob jokes. For the most part though, despite some truly terrible moments, the film is surprisingly watchable. You stand a decent chance sitting through it with your preteen kids (who’ll undoubtedly love it) without hating yourself afterwards.