Adam Sandler as Jim
Drew Barrymore as Lauren
Bella Thorne as Hilary
Emma Fuhrmann as Espn
Alyvia Alyn Lind as Lou
Braxton Beckham as Brendan
Kyle Red Silverstein as Tyler
Wendi McLendon-Covey as Jen
Kevin Nealon as Eddy
Jessica Lowe as Ginger
Zak Henri as Jake
Terry Crews as Nickens
Abdoulaye NGom as Mfana
Joel McHale as Mark
Shaquille O’Neal as Doug
Directed by Frank Coraci
I have to admit that I had no idea a “blended family” was another term for step-family, so if you take nothing else from Adam Sandler’s similarly titled film, you will at least have that. And believe me, you will take nothing else from it… and if you already knew that you’re totally out of luck.
The blendeds here are the clans of Jim (Sandler), desperately in need of a mother figure for his three maturing daughters, and Lauren (Barrymore), desperately in need of a father figure for her two delinquent sons. Faster than you can say “sitcom pilot reject,” the two families find themselves sharing a holiday getaway in South Africa designed just for blended families, and starting to wonder if they’ve found what they need in each other.
Actually, it’s not that fast. The set-up is vague and ill-defined and requires the use of plot contrivances–including a porno mag, feminine hygiene products and Barrymore’s gold-digging business partner–which would shatter the disbelief of the most ardent optimist. Once that’s finally settled, we are free to dig in and sit through an extended middle which seems never-ending–no matter how desperately you wish otherwise–so that all of screenwriter Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera’s carefully balanced gags can play out. Only half of that sentence was actually true.
Just in case you haven’t had enough by then, despite a second act which accounts for two-thirds of the film’s running time, the finale seems to go on forever as the filmmakers throw an increasing number of curveballs at Jim and Lauren which seem meant to heighten the tension heading into the climax but which would require us to care anything about these people by that point. Because this is a comedy, the writers have done nothing to develop anyone besides Jim or Lauren beyond a single all-encompassing character trait–Tyler is hyper, Espn pretends her mother is still with them–because this is a comedy so you’ll be laughing and won’t notice. Except this is a bad comedy and you won’t be laughing, so you will notice. The good news (and it may be the only good news) is that you won’t care how strange the pace is or how flat the characters are by the time you get to the end, because all of your senses will have been deadened to uselessness.
It is not just that “Blended” isn’t funny. It seems to actually be trying to be not funny, to a degree that it surpasses inviting our scorn and begins inviting our disgust.
Though that may be giving the film credit for more industriousness than it deserves. The real watchword here is laziness. The filmmakers, headed by frequent Sandler cohort Frank Coraci, have put the minimum possible work into a couple of tell-tale gags for each member of the family–oldest daughter Hillary is frequently mistaken for a boy, oldest son Brendan has a strange fixation on his babysitter–clapped their hands together and said “job done.”
It is mercifully short on body fluid humor, preferring its cheap laughs delivered the old fashioned way ? via unfunny catch phrases and repetitive set-ups. “Blended” seems to be the culmination of a contest to put together the least funny jokes possible and I would be hard pressed to determine a victor. It’s probably a tie between whether Terry Crews’ hyperactive singer or Barrymore’s teenage son constantly referring to how hot his mom is.
There is the usual Sandler fixation on family and the growth and change that comes with watching the children grow up, but in its quest for easy laughs not only does “Blended” fail to find what it’s looking for, it frequently stabs itself in the foot along the way.
The only thing “Blended” excels at is failure.