Is the Third Time the Charm for the Pairing of Sandler and Barrymore?
Director: FRANK CORACI/2014
When it comes to Adam Sandler films, people tend to have one of two reactions: They either love his brand of comedy, or they absolutely hate it with a passion. Reviewing his films can be a tough endeavor because you ultimately have to judge it, not on whether they are “good” films in a traditional sense, although that is included, but you more importantly have to acknowledge who they’re made for and ask “do they accomplish what they set out to do”? Most Sandler films are critical failures, but he has a very loyal following and has made quite successful films, in spite of the critics, by appealing to what his core fans want to see. It is on this basis that I was able to give a generally favorable review to last year’s Grown-Ups 2, because he set out to entertain the 12 year old in all of us and his humor in that film was aimed right at that level. Mission accomplished. Like it or not, he makes his films for himself, his family, and his small circle of friends who show up in nearly every film he makes. There have been movies outside his Happy Madison production company that have sought to stretch the actor such as Punch Drunk Love, Reign Over Me, and Spanglish. Each of these are solid examples of the range he is capable of, but to his critics ire and his core audience’s delight, he returns time and time again to the low brow styled comedy he is known for, going back to his days on Saturday Night Live.
If there are a group of movies that have straddled the fence and allowed him to simultaneously appeal to both his core audience and those who typically aren’t fond of his comedy, it is the films where he is paired with Drew Barrymore. Both The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, contained Sandler’s pubescent comedic styling, but it also had a sweetness that was grounded firmly in a relationship with Barrymore that showed that even Billy Madison was capable of growing up. In fact, for the most part, Sandler’s films have been shifting their focus over the years towards family and parenting. This is something very much at the center of who he is in his private life. So whether it’s Click, Bedtime Stories, Spanglish, Just Go With It, Jack and Jill, Grown-Ups, etc., there is an emphasis on functioning within a family unit that has been front and center for most of his offerings for the past decade. With Blended, Sandler seeks to expand the idea of family to look at what it’s like when two people with children try to “blend” their separate personalities and functioning as multiple family units into one cohesive whole.
Blended is the story of a widower (Sandler), who is the father of three daughters, who is set up with Barrymore, a woman going through a divorce that has 2 sons of her own. When the film opens we are given a glimpse of their horrendous blind date together. It serves to provide some early laughs and to firmly establish who these characters are. A total disaster, there is obviously no way that these two would fit together. This dichotomy serves as the catalyst for much of the humor, and through the situations that seek to bring these two together in the end, we learn that first impressions don’t always reveal the true character of someone, or their story.
There are typical running gags that exist in other Sandler films such as bathroom humor, gender-identity confusion (is she a man?), and childish pranks. Terry Crews almost steals the show as a singing entertainer at a South African resort where Sandler, Barrymore, and their children end up through certain plot devices. Crews and his team of singers pop-up (literally) everywhere in the film. Other noteable appearances include Joel McHale as Barrymore’s dead-beat ex, Kevin Nealon, and Wendi McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs) as Barrymore’s friend and business partner. Shaquille O’Neal returns from Grown-Ups 2, as does Sandler’s usual cast and crew. Look for some notable appearances of characters from the other Sandler/Barrymore films that fans of these partnerships will enjoy.
Sandler and Barrymore have an undeniable chemistry that is still very much intact for Blended. Barrymore is a natural straight-(wo)man to Sandler’s shtick. While this script seems more uneven than the previous outings of The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, it still is able to capture the charm of these two actors that existed in the two aforementioned films, even if slightly diminished. And for all of the low-grade antics and humor, this film has a lot of positives to say about family. It deals with the awkward phases of growing up, the insecurities adults have who are trying to hold it together while being a role model for their children. It shows how the loss of loved ones can manifest itself in our actions and interactions with people. It positively shows a single father managing his family well in light of such a great loss. It also deals with the fear many single people have of family, both justified fears and ones that aren’t.
Blended isn’t just the name of the film, but a good description of what a Sandler and Barrymore pairing does for the audience. It blends the antics of Sandler with the romantic longing, and sweetness of Barrymore. It grounds the more fantastical elements of the script with a believablilty of the relationship that Sandler and Barrymore have established over these past 16 years. The result is often a mix of the zany humor with a realism that more of the modern raunch-com films should strive for.
While it is not as impacting as either 50 First Dates or The Wedding Singer, Blended is still an enjoyable outing that provides exactly what you expect from an Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore film and nothing more. It will be a success for the audience it’s intended for and no one else. Much like the small community of cast and crew that keep coming back for more, this film will attract the community of movie-goers that have been with Sandler from the beginning. Barrymore’s presence here will only add to the size of this audience. So if you like Sandler and Barrymore, this third outing may prove to be another hit. If you don’t like Sandler (or Barrymore), then this will do nothing to change your mind.