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Stars: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Wendi McLendon-Covey
Director: Frank Coraci
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 117 min
Released May 23, 2014
Reviewed by Hal C F Astell

If I wasn't already at the drive-in to review 'Earth to Echo', with which 'Blended' played as a double feature, I wouldn't have sought out this film because it's an Adam Sandler movie. I hate Adam Sandler movies. I hate Adam Sandler movies with a passion because I hate the rampant stupidity he embraces so outrageously that I've always wondered if he was actually retarded. I hate Adam Sandler movies so much that I thought he'd end up with a letter to himself, A is for Adam, in the modern sequel to my book, 'Huh? An A-Z of Why Classic American Bad Movies Were Made.'

Yet I have to man up and say that I enjoyed 'Blended', albeit on a rather subdued level. This may be the most predictable movie I've ever seen and I'll never feel the need to watch it again, but it plays out without feeling the need to descend to the depths of stupidity that Sandler usually plumbs. He may have played a real human being in a movie before but, if so, I've been successful enough at avoiding his movies that I haven't noticed.

We're here to watch two single parents and their children blend into a single unit. In any other movie, that might be a spoiler, but this one is so blatant about its intentions that it highlights them in its very title. The entire story is shown in the trailer, so anyone who gets surprised by the movie surely has less brain cells than the usual Adam Sandler character.

Sandler is Jim Freedman, who has three girls he cares for deeply but fails utterly to understand. He works at Dick's Sporting Goods, who get special thanks at the end for how tightly they feature in the plot. His co-star is Drew Barrymore, returning for their third romantic comedy together, after 'The Wedding Singer' and '50 First Dates'. She's Lauren Reynolds, who has two boys she cares for deeply but fails utterly to understand. She works for herself, organising closets for people so rich that half the clothes still have tags on them. Her company name, Closet Queens, ends up in the expected jokes.

They meet at the beginning of the movie on a blind date, which is an utter disaster. He takes her to Hooters, where he's known as a regular. He drinks her beer. And he bails on her, using a completely transparent emergency excuse. Then again, neither have been on a date in decades. She's here because her husband cheated on her; he's here because his wife died of cancer. Obviously they're not meant for each other.

They almost do better on their second meeting, at a convenience store. She's replacing porn for her son, after ripping up the centerfold she found under his bed; he's buying tampons for his daughter. Neither of them have a clue, so they swap products at the till. This encounter only fails because the script says it must, so clearly they're going to bump into each other again soon.

It turns out to be really soon, because their credit cards got swapped and swapping them back sets up our story. Lauren's co-worker, Jen, has dumped her boyfriend, Dick, because he has five kids and wants to take them all on a trip to Africa. Jim realises that Dick is his boss, THE Dick from Dick's Sporting Goods, so leaves and organises a transfer of Dick's tickets to him. Meanwhile Lauren organises a transfer of Jen's tickets to her and so our non-couple find each other again in Sun City, South Africa, all set for a 'blended familymoon' in a romantic setting. They all hate it immediately.

It's clear from that point, if not the opening credits, exactly where this is going to go and there are no surprises here whatsoever except that it's surprisingly enjoyable. Sandler and Barrymore's characters come off as loving but inept parents, two halves of a whole. And I do mean inept.

Jim's eldest daughter looks like a boy, while Lauren's eldest son looks like Corey Feldman. Jim named his middle girl after his favourite TV network (she's Espn); Lauren often carries her little one to bed after he passes out from exhaustion, banging his head on every piece of architecture she passes. They both need help. Of course they find it in each other. He has no idea how to deal with girls and she has no idea how to deal with boys so, while trying to avoid each other, they help out each other's kids in various little stories within the big one.

There are other characters in the story, of course, and they're as inevitable as the main ones, but they're capably played and generally enjoyable enough. Best of them all is probably Alyvia Alyn Lind, as Jim's youngest daughter, Lou, as she manages to retain the usual cuteness even while doing demonic possession imitations. I did cringe occasionally at the treatment of the locals, because this isn't particularly kind to South Africans, however often it adds caveats to its punchlines to emphasise that we shouldn't be offended.

There are points where the scriptwriters, Clare Sera and Ivan Menchell, can't resist throwing in some of the stupidity or crudity that we've enjoyed thus far only through its absence. The Greek chorus in the form of a South African harmony group is more than a bit much and often goes more than a bit too far. Mostly though, it plays it all pretty safe, certainly the least edgy movie in which I've seen either star.

In a way it's doomed to mild success. It's grounded in capable, if very unambitious, filmmaking, with capable, if very unambitious, acting. It stays grounded because it's nailed to such completely safe ground that it couldn't take off in a hurricane. And it's inoffensive enough to be viewable by Mormons without edits. All this put together means that it can't really fail and it's made twice back what it cost already.

I'm not going to recommend this to anyone, but I'm not going to warn you away from it either. This is the epitome of the sort of movie that you should watch only if it shows up on TV and you have nothing better to do with your Sunday afternoon.

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