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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 23 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 21
Blended a frustratingly uneven Sandler-Barrymore reunion
Arts & Entertainment
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Blended a frustratingly uneven Sandler-Barrymore reunion

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

Jim (Adam Sandler) is a single father managing a local sporting goods box store trying to raise three lovely young girls in the wake of their mother's untimely death to cancer. Lauren (Drew Barrymore) is a single mother who runs her own small business doing the best she can for her two boys after their self-centered father Mark (Joel McHale) stepped his way out of the family portrait. The two of them are set up on a blind date that goes all kinds of wrong, and by the time it's over neither wants to see the other ever again.

Just their luck, his boss Dick (Dan Patrick) and her best friend and business partner Jen (Wendi McLendon-Covey) are dating. More, they're currently on the outs, meaning their big, week-long already paid for trip to Africa isn't going to happen. Both Jim and Lauren are struck with inspiration, instantly snatching up the tickets of the party they're acquainted with, hoping to gift their children a family vacation they'll remember for the rest of their lives - neither thinking for a moment the other will have the exact same idea. Now the lot of them are in South Africa forced to eat, drink, and sleep with one another, Jim and Lauren needing to reassess their opinions about one another, if only to hopefully make things bearable for the kids they so selflessly love.

Blended is thankfully not a disaster. It has moments of surprising insight, beauteous warmth, and truly astonishing humor, magically bringing a smile to my face at times and in ways I didn't for a second see coming. At the same time, the movie is also an almost unforgivable, annoyingly frustrating failure, reveling in stereotypes and ideas beyond odious, while also mucking around in sophomoric comedic bits that go one step below the lowest common denominator.

Talk about a mixed bag.

After a rocky start, the movie somehow, someway manages to hit something close to a pleasant stride as it allows Jim and Lauren to showcase their parental skills in stunningly authentic ways. There is an inherent realism to both their situations that cuts through the sitcom pabulum, and I loved how honest the movie was in regards to parental responsibilities and what living up to them can oftentimes entail. I even didn't mind the tricky harebrained lunacy that's required to get both of them and their respective children to Africa, and as story devices go, this one didn't strike me as near as stupid as I'd worried it would be before the picture began.

Once there, things pretty much go as anticipated. Jim's daughters are wary of Lauren, while her sons despise Jim right out of the gate, both sides finding their preconceptions to be all kinds of wrong as they slowly get to know one another a bit more fully, while the same goes for the parents themselves. But intermixed inside all of this is bathroom humor so juvenile even Mad Magazine would find it in poor taste, gender stereotypes so horrific they're borderline insulting, and racial observations so backwards they might as well be of a bygone century. A great scene is quickly followed by a putrid, borderline unwatchable one, every pleasant smile or gentle tear upended by an eye-rolling moment of ineptitude that cancels them out almost to the point of never having existed at all.

Shame, because say what you will about Sandler, and plenty can be proclaimed, the overall second-rate nature of the majority of his filmography speaking for itself, the one co-star he's always been close to magical with has, without question, been Barrymore. While I don't particularly care for 50 First Dates, their chemistry in that romantic Hawaiian frolic is nearly enough to make it worthwhile. As for The Wedding Singer, its charm and magnetic ebullience speaks for itself, that 1998 effort growing in both status and in importance with every passing year.

They continue to sparkle here as well, Barrymore once again achieving a graceful symbiotic emotional balance with her co-star, the likes of which no other female lead has ever been close to equaling in any other motion picture Sandler has appeared in. For whatever reason, believing the two of them as a viable couple is remarkably easy, and no matter how outlandish or far-fetched things might end up becoming, their connection one to the other is never, ever in doubt.

All of which makes Blended even more of a disappointment. Reteaming with their The Wedding Singer director Frank Coraci, the movie is disjointed and unfocused, assembled with an infuriating randomness that causes individual scenes to more often than not feel completely disconnected to the ones adjoining them. On top of that, Ivan Menchell (The Cemetery Club) and newcomer Clare Sera's script transitions from reality-based humor to Sandler-style absurdities with lumpy, tetchy regularity, making maintaining a connection to anything that is happening impossible. The movie is a mess, and as enjoyable as it may be in parts, on the whole it's still an exasperating misfire, wasting its inherent plusses and attributes to an almost unforgivable degree.

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This week is concert-heavy for Seattle
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'Stroke: From Under the Mattress to the Museum Wall'
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Northwest News
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LETTERS
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Lily Allen adds Seattle to U.S. tour
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Future and past collide in latest X-Men spectacle
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Blended a frustratingly uneven Sandler-Barrymore reunion
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SIFF 2014: Synopsis & Recommendations
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2014 Summer Preview - May & June
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