The Bock’s Office: ‘Blended’ more family-friendly than most Sandler movies
May 29, 2014
Here's the story of a lovely lady, a guy who couldn't be less like the man named Brady and five children with varying emotional issues that easily can be solved in the timeframe of two hours: "Blended."
Sometimes you just know right away when you've found the right person, but the knowledge you've found the absolute wrong person comes immediately, too. Such a sensation is obvious to mismatched blind dates Jim and Lauren (Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore), neither of whom have any interest in finding anybody, both preferring to focus their attention on their kids.
Try as they might, the two are unable to keep avoiding each other, particularly when they each happen upon a luxury vacation to an African resort. The trouble is, they've both bought into the same package, meaning Jim, Lauren, Jim's daughters (Bella Thorne, Emma Fuhrmann, Alyvia Alyn Lind) and Lauren's sons (Braxton Beckham, Kyle Red Silverstein) are all stuck pretending to be one big unhappy family.
And, forced to spend time together and make nice, Jim and Lauren start to realize maybe their first impressions weren't the most accurate.
If you can imagine Sandler starring in "The Brady Bunch" or "Step by Step," here would be the result, as man's man Jim, a sporting goods salesman with three tomboys on his hands and the memory of his late wife keeping him from trusting anyone new, let alone a woman he's all to eager to use the old fake emergency phone call excuse to rush out on dinner.
And it was going so well up to that point.
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As the Florence Henderson to his Robert Reed, the Suzanne Somers to his Patrick Duffy, Barrymore is a delight as uptight, harried Lauren, a closet organizer trying to keep it all together between her inconsiderate ex (Joel McHale) and her rambunctious boys, with the younger one unable to sit still for five minutes and the elder entrenched in the parts of puberty no mom wants to handle.
Sandler's girls get more of the spotlight, with Disney Channel star Thorne as body-conscious teen Hillary, suddenly gaga over a boy (Zak Henri), which means Jim loses his favorite two-on-two teammate with a Bruce Jenner coif to makeup, hair extensions and — gasp! — dresses.
Although Dad is willing to pick up some feminine hygiene products when he absolutely has to, his insistence in calling her Larry doesn't do much to dispel the idea that he thinks of her as a male, possibly training her up to be the next Celtics great.
Who wants to bet his youngest, Lou, is named after baseball's Iron Horse?
At least those two got off easy compared to middle daughter, Espn — that's right, every sports lover's dream is honoring their favorite network — still dealing with her mother's death by talking to her spirit and always setting an extra, empty place at the table.
In so many of the films from Sandler's Happy Madison production company, children are present purely as comic fodder and usually aren't even that funny. There's some of that here — after all, who doesn't want to hear a preschooler spout off the words "butthole" and "ba-gina?" — but there's also some honest feelings with these kids compared to "Just Go with It" and the "Grown Ups" flicks where the audience was laughing at them rather than with them.
Don't even get me started on the nasty, mocking nature of "Jack and Jill" and "That's My Boy."
The string of movies featuring Sandler on holiday have been oddly successful for whatever reason, even without a plot in the case of last summer's "Grown Ups 2," so it's only logical that they'd try out an international locale, and Africa may never be the same.
OK, to be fair, we are talking about an experience that's purely tourist, in this case, centered at a getaway hosting a retreat for mixed broods — second marriages, stepparents and half-siblings, etc. — on a "familymoon."
It's not much of a premise, but it really rings true at times and comes off as more sincere than most of Sandler's previous movies designated for parents and kids to watch together, which in most cases hasn't been advisable. Also, the cast does surprisingly well, with Barrymore's presence more than ever complementing Sandler's persona, showing the two still have chemistry after "The Wedding Singer" and "50 First Dates."
Not having constant pop-ins from his old posse certainly doesn't hurt, either.
"Blended" may depend on your tolerance of its star, who by now, has managed to turn away some of those who loved him the most 10 to 15 years ago. Even if you've hated the Sandman's last few features with a passion, it's never too late to forgive and forget.