Written by Ankit Ojha
What to Expect
Little did The Wedding Singer‘s director Frank Coraci know when he was bringing Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore for the first time on screen, that the pair would make a lot of sense. Of course, the eventual success rehashed in their next film together – and coupled with Sandler’s regressively outrageous choice of comedy (remember Jack & Jill, people?) really puts this film on the not-so-high on the expectations chart. Which is really sad, considering Sandler and Barrymore are back once again for yet another repeat collaboration with the very director who made their pairing a success.
Here’s the other problem though: Coraci’s other films with Sandler (Click, The Waterboy)? Not quite relatively successful critically. So why would one want to even watch Blended? Difficult as it was, this writer seems to have found three reasons why:
- For a certain number of people having a dislike for Adam Sandler, there’s a whole other set of people who see things differently. For them, it definitely deserves a watch. Plus, Sandler himself isn’t a bad actor – and the proof of this statement lies heavily in two of his must watch movies Reign over Me and Punch Drunk Love.
- Drew Barrymore herself is quite the natural performer. From comedy to action and other different dramatic roles, she’s done it all, and with grace. Her chemistry with Adam Sandler seems to have the power to make an otherwise silly movie consistently watchable (hello, 50 First Dates).
- This is the third Sandler-Barrymore collaboration, ten years since their last. This in itself is the movie’s most important selling point.
Considering Adam Sandler, however, it’s just quite difficult to expect certainty out of the output of his films. And this is precisely why the writer of this review went in with awfully mixed expectations.
What’s it About?
Speaking of which, it’s a known problem (at least according to the universe of the movie) of single parents to not know what to expect out of a date. Because when you even begin to expect, you’d end up like Jim Friedman (Sandler) and Lauren Reynolds (Barrymore, He’s Just Not That Into You), who end up with each other on a blind date gone horribly wrong. As fate – and a lost opportunity – has it, they both land up in Africa for a vacation. With their kids in the fray, and tied up with each other for the whole of the vacation, they begin to do the dance. Eventually, learning the steps, they end up becoming very comfortable with each other. But is that enough?
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
For a Sandler film, there’s good news. For what standard Sandler seems to have become, his character in this film is written minus the awfully in-your-face quirks and fetishes. There’s a certain simplicity to the characters the leads imbibe in this film. And due to this, in quite a few portions, the film exudes a pleasantly surprising warmth and emotional depth. The gags and other humorous portions have been very well-written and do give the viewers a surprising bunch of laughs. Particularly noticeable is the choir gag featuring Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and his band members, which are initially very funny. The problem with these gags is that they keep coming back on exhaustion of the shamefully limited stock of them, thereby draining them of the uniqueness through them. Also, the roles of quite a few characters including (but not limited to) the leads are manipulatively stereotypical. Fortunately, the film has quite the breezy middle for the viewer to care. The sore points in Frank’s direction lies in the scenes outside of Africa – either too convenient, or too genre-pigeonholed to come across as effective. Not that the writing is not to blame. There are many portions, when convenience is used instead of stronger scene maneuvering. Now that’s too bad, because the film sparkles of chemistry, sincerity, warmth and emotional depth – most of which are never seen in movies of the type.
Technically, the movie’s quite decent. Julio Macat’s cinematography is pretty functional for a movie like this. It’s surprising how much B-roll of animals was filled into the film for purposes of patching it through. The same goes for Tom Costain’s edit, which doesn’t really do anything new, but does the job just fine. Production design is pretty good, with some fancy art direction thrown in well around the edges. Music by Rupert Gregson-Williams (Click) works well for the film.
To Perform or Not to Perform
Performance wise, Sandler is definitely a pleasant surprise considering the kind of films of his that have been releasing in the past few years. His role is heavily underplayed – and while there are flashes of crazy Sandler, they’re fortunately kept to a bare minimum. Drew Barrymore, as always, is a charmer. She breezes past the role and waltzes her way to a very, very likable performance. The chemistry between the leads forms to become the redeemer yet again throughout its runtime. Wendy McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs) delivers a mixed one, but this is mostly the fault of the way her character’s written. We’re not sure if she’s unlikable, nice-at-heart or just plain confused. Terry Crews puts forth a hilarious show that hist just the right notes initially due to the novel gag-treatment. Unfortunately, with extreme repetition of the gag, his presence in the film becomes downright annoying. That’s a shame, because he’s put forth a very good performance on this one. Bella Thorne comes off refreshingly different from her Shake it Up staple, and that works. In her second feature film role since The Magic of Belle Isle, Emma Kate Fuhrmann puts forth a shockingly sincere approach to the partially half-baked and manipulative character of Espn Friedman (yes, she’s named after the network. Yes, it’s a joke). This changes a lot, and makes the viewer feel for her in places. Alyvia Lind is just adorable and will steal your hearts. Of the wide staple of the rest of the efficient supporting performances, Kevin Nealon, Jessica Lowe and Joel McHale stand out.
Overall, this movie is surprisingly way better off than a host of Sandler’s dismal movies that have come by far. The laughs generated are very genuine, and for a romantic comedy, the chemistry is as effortless as can get. Unfortunately for its length, the repetitiousness of its gags and the overall blandness in some conveniently written scenes of conflict and issue-tabling it doesn’t reach anywhere. However, taking their place are the surprising emotional relevance and the sincerity of the film that takes the viewers through till its end.
This one’s tolerable enough to be a one-time big screen watch. Or a lazy small-screen rerun.
Star Rating: 2.5 / 5
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