Every so often, there are onscreen duos whose chemistry and audience appeal are so exquisite, that film producers and viewers alike simply are left only wanting more. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, Diane Keaton and Woody Allen, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet—all pairs whose spark in front of the camera burned so brightly, there simply could not be only one cinematic achievement captured; they simply had to come back for more.
Of course, not every bloom on the rosebush flowers with the same ardency. For every Sleepless in Seattle, and to a lesser but still enjoyable extent You've Got Mail, there doth befall upon the world the clashing thud of a Joe Versus the Volcano.
So too, with the amiable stars Drew Barrymore, whose charm knows no end, and Adam Sandler, whose humor and talent have been overshadowed in recent years by his terrifically terrible career choices. Barrymore and Sandler first found their way into audiences' hearts in The Wedding Singer, a classic which holds up hilariously today. They then found love again onscreen in 50 First Dates, which wasn't quite as beloved, but still held our attention long enough to drum up $120 million at the domestic box office. So it would naturally be assumed that such returns would lead us all to a third time reunion with the pair who naturally fit well together when the cameras are on them.
This is indubitably not the case in this year's go of it: Blended. The movie works hard to play up the reasons why people are drawn to its stars, but does so in a forced, oft-uncomfortable, and extremely unrealistic manner, thus, all that remains is a lot of stale jokes and no real depth of character, and one very tired looking Sandler, who at this point in his career, truly seems to be going through the motions with no visible investment in his work whatsoever.
Sidebar on Sandler in general: what happened there? With early career timeless comedy masterpieces like Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy, Billy Madison, even Mr. Deeds or a solid dramedy like Spanglish, he really had a chokehold on his particular brand of stupid-ish/clever humor that really brought out the belly laughs. Who doesn't at least crack a smile remembering him famously knock out Bob Barker on the golf course howling: "The price is wrong, bitch!" But in the last several years, it has been one disaster after another, each worse than the last. You Don't Mess with the Zohan, Jack and Jill, That's My Boy...unwatchable drivel that makes one question his sanity. It's too bad that he plays up what he thinks audiences will like, rather than what they actually will (the bawdy side couple no one cares about, the non-culturally sensitive and often just downright racist jokes or innuendos, the misunderstanding of women in every way possible); it's just all too much.
Blended finds Jim (Sandler) and Lauren (Barrymore) as a couple who meet for a first date early in the film that goes horribly wrong. The movie actually starts off strong; with their familiar tone and famously comfortable chemistry, viewers are immediately placed in a good feeling that there is excitement to see how once again these two will work things out, despite misunderstandings and commotion around their oft-frazzled lives.
But then the film really takes a dive when it ever so unrealistically manages to get single mom Lauren and her two sons and single dad Jim and his three daughters to end up on Lauren's co-worker/friend's vacation to Africa that said friend, Jen (Wendi McLendon-Covey, whose usual hilarious spark is not fully taken advantage of here), somehow now is no longer going on because of a nonsensical argument she had with her fiancé—who happens to be the owner of a Dick's Sporting Goods, (where Jim works as a regular lower level manager/employee and is somehow connected to said owner enough to gain his ticket to Africa). It's completely not believable. There's a difference between a regular level of suspension of disbelief and then there is just outright ridiculousness.
Once the film is transported to Africa, there is no course correcting the lost ship it has become. They go to a resort that looks like it was dropped out of Disneyworld and misplaced on a tropical backdrop. Then there is the troubling nature of once again another movie depicting the "exotic" Africans amusing the bemused white folk...it's nearly too much to bear. And Sandler obviously knows nothing about women, which, granted, he tries to play up in his character, but his poor teenage daughters, who undergo countless jokes of their forcefully mannish looks (which are merely the product of bad haircuts and ill-fitting clothes), bear the brunt of this lack of understanding. It's not funny; it's just uncomfortable.
Swing and a miss on this one, but better luck next time, Sandler. It's in you, to be sure—Just Go With It was fun!—but please avoid this kind of mess.