It’s a shame when a movie gets condemned before it’s even given a fighting chance. And I know, I know, Adam Sandler hasn’t had the greatest track record as of late. But here’s the thing: when he teams up with Drew Barrymore, it just works. “The Wedding Singer” has become a romantic comedy classic, and “50 First Dates” was a box-office hit, grossing nearly $200 million worldwide. So what I guess I’m trying to say is, maybe Sandler hasn’t been making great movies lately. But his past two outings with Barrymore have been good enough to earn their latest movie, “Blended,” a fair shot at success -- something that, unfortunately, bloggers and the general public seem keen on preventing. When you Google the name of the movie, one of the first articles to come up is entitled “7 Reasons why the new Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler movie is going to be terrible.” But isn’t it our job as critics to give movies a shot, even if they look like they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel? I’ll be the first to admit that, based on the trailer, “Blended” looked pretty bad. I’ll also be the first to admit that I was wrong.
The movie begins with a categorically awful first date: Jim (Sandler) takes Lauren (Barrymore) to Hooters, drinks her entire glass of beer while she’s in the bathroom, and the date ends with her spitting up food everywhere. Feeling nothing but contempt for one and other, they go their separate ways. Lauren is a divorced mother of two boys, and Jim is a widowed sports manager with three young girls: Larry (Bella Thorne), Espn (Emma Fuhrmann) and Lou (Alyvia Alyn Lind). To make a long story short, both families end up on the same trip to Africa, sharing the same gigantic suite.
It’s an easy movie to use as a punching bag; the plot is far too contrived, and there’s an abundance of clichés to mock. But in the end, its faults turn out to be minor ones. Because when a movie has you smiling and laughing consistently throughout, it's fairly easy to ignore how juvenile some of its antics may be. There is, of course, slapstick and silliness galore – like when a sweet moment between Jim and Lauren is put on hold at the sight of two rhinos screwing each other. (It’s a Sandler movie, so let’s not pretend to be surprised.) But there’s also a disarming amount of heart here, with one of the main themes of the movie being that of the difficulty of growing up without a parent. Believe it or not, “Blended” handles the sentimental side of the plot delicately and with care. And anytime things start getting a bit too heavy, Terry Crews and his Greek chorus of sorts can be counted on to pop up and start vivaciously singing and dancing in one of the movie’s funniest running gags.
There’s something about Sandler and Barrymore as a team that really changes the dynamic of Sandler’s movies. Barrymore works as a great foil to Sandler; he brings his signature goofiness, and she injects a certain warmth and relatability to their movies that is sorely lacking in most of his other work. They have enough chemistry that together they counteract most of the screenplay’s pitfalls. It doesn’t matter that there’s a scene that is literally an exact replica of one from “The Wedding Singer,” in which a character finally realizes their true feelings, runs to the other’s home to declare their love, only for their ex to open the door and tell them that it’s too late. Because together, they just work. Plain and simple.
Better than “50 First Dates” and not quite as memorable as “The Wedding Singer,” Barrymore and Sandler prove once again that when they team up, Happy Madison movies can be worth giving a chance.
"Blended" is now in theaters. For showtimes in Miami Beach, click here