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Blended' a mixed-up mess

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Adam Sandler's latest never quite meshes

While it pains me a little to admit it, there is always going to be a part of me that bears real affection for Adam Sandler. Sure, in recent years, the work he's produced has become repetitive a poop joke between two mirrors, reflecting upon itself forever and ever, ad infinitum but his earliest movies hit theaters while I was in my late teens and early 20s; stuff like 'Billy Madison' and 'Happy Gilmore' were in my wheelhouse.

However, while I grew up, Adam Sandler and his sensibilities just grew older. That refusal to evolve has led to a decade-plus of real cinematic stinkers; movies that are crass and juvenile just for the sake of being crass and juvenile. When I saw trailers for his newest movie 'Blended,' I expected more of the same. And it was but at the same time, it wasn't - not entirely anyway.

Don't get me wrong 'Blended' is not a good movie. Far from it. But it also isn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.

Sandler stars as Jim, a widower with three daughters who manages a Dick's Sporting Goods store. Drew Barrymore ('Big Miracle') is Lauren, a divorcee with two sons of her own. The two of them get set up on a blind date by a mutual friend a date that is an unmitigated disaster. They go to a Hooters, he can't stop watching sports, they have nothing in common you know the drill so they agree to go their separate ways.

But circumstances throw them together again (shocking, I know). After a convoluted series of events involving Lauren's business partner and Jim's boss, the two of them along with their five kids wind up setting out on a week-long trip to a resort in South Africa. This not only forces Jim and Lauren to reacquaint themselves, but it also pushes the two families together.

Jim's oldest Hilary (Bella Thorne, TV's 'Shake It Up!') is a tomboy struggling with being a girl. His middle daughter Espn (Emma Fuhrmann, 'The Magic of Belle Isle') still sees and talks to her dead mother. And youngest daughter Lou (Alyvia Alyn Lind, 'Dark Skies') sweetly hopes for her dad to be happy. Meanwhile, you've got Lauren's kids: the girl-obsessed Brendan (Braxton Beckham in his feature debut) and the hyperactive Tyler (Kyle Silverstein, TV's 'Grey's Anatomy').

As you might expect, the initial disdain between the families starts to melt away as each of them starts to realize just what has been missing from their own lives.

Oh, and there are some horribly off-putting African stereotypes. Some rhino sex too, just in case you forgot you were watching an Adam Sandler movie.

About 65 percent of 'Blended' is actually kind of sweet; two people slowly finding their way into romance while their kids go on their own respective journeys of growth. It's formulaic and a little saccharine, maybe, but not terrible.

Unfortunately, there's the other 35 percent the one filled with Sandler-generated non sequiturs that exist only to show the world that he's still goofy and hilarious. These unfunny bits are compounded by the weird and unsettling racial tone set by the South African resort setting. Stereotypes are thick on the ground and played for the worst kind of laughs; poor Terry Crews ('Draft Day') shoulders the worst of it as a thickly accented leader of an African singing group that acts as a disconcerting Greek chorus, reminding you to feel bad for even considering laughing at some of this stuff.

There's an underlying sentiment here that is actually kind of nice and the chemistry between Sandler and Barrymore is somehow real and engaging; I honestly have no idea how they got Sandler to stop acting like a cartoon long enough for that to happen. The kids are cute too. And there's even the occasional genuinely funny moment. Those brief glimpses of humanity make it hard to loathe this movie as much as I expected to.

Despite it all, 'Blended' isn't nearly as unpleasant or hate-inducing as some of Sandler's other recent work I'm looking at you, 'Grown Ups 2' though it's still a far cry from being, you know, good.

[2 out of 5]

Last modified on Tuesday, 27 May 2014 21:42

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