Blended Frank Coraci

Blended Frank Coraci
5
It's been 16 years since Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore first fell for each other in The Wedding Singer before then finding love together again in 2004's 50 First Dates, so it's understandable that an attempt to reignite their on-screen romance for a third time at this point comes with kids in tow. In the uneven and overwhelmingly saccharine Blended, the chemistry between the two is generated only in fits and starts, assisted by a game supporting cast and a half-baked script that initially struggles to bring them together and then eventually strains to keep them apart.

Jim (Sandler) and Lauren (Barrymore) go out on a horrendous blind date and agree to never see each other again. He's a single dad with three daughters and a wife who died of cancer; she's a single mom with two sons and a deadbeat dad of an ex-husband (played with an appropriate amount of smarm by Joel McHale). For reasons far too convoluted to explain here, both families end up on the same vacation to Africa. The set-up for this premise is long and needlessly complicated, with so few laughs that a sense of dread begins to set in that this is shaping up to be a real clunker.

But a funny thing happens once they get to Africa: the film starts to grow on you. Sandler and Barrymore are given an opportunity to play to their strengths and the kids are all provided with enough individual quirks and problems to allow personalities to develop. In what appears to be an attempt to merge Sandler's success with his juvenile Grown Ups series and the natural rapport he's exhibited before with Barrymore, both audiences ultimately come up a little short-changed.

There are stretches, though, where the broad jokes and telegraphed plot points manage to give way to the infectious energy of the cast. Terry Crews proves once again to be a capable scene-stealer with how much he invests in his role as the leader of an omnipresent singing group, while overly amorous couple Kevin Nealon and Jessica Lowe have some funny moments along the way, as well. Unfortunately, at just under two hours, the film really drags its feet getting to one of the more predictable climaxes in romantic comedy history.

The director is long-time Sandler collaborator Frank Coraci, who also made The Wedding Singer all those years ago. It's perhaps an inevitable by-product of time and shifting priorities that where the trio of Sandler, Barrymore and Coraci were focused on making a date movie then, they have now finally arrived at producing family fare together.

(Warner)