Loathsome "Blended" Marks New Low For Adam Sandler
Featuring the leads as mismatched (but actually perfectly matched!) single parents, “Blended” suffers from the same tonal issues as Sandler’s other recent work, only a million times over. Marooned somewhere between family movie and sex comedy, it’s an astoundingly mean-spirited film, its callousness only trumped by its unfunniness. Jim (Sandler) is the widowed father of 3 tomboyish girls, Lauren (Barrymore) is the divorced mother of 2 eccentric boys, and after a bad blind date, the pair and their brood accidentally end up on a trip to Africa together. Inexplicably, the film goes to absurd lengths to set up its dumb, fluky narrative, taking well over 30 minutes to get the families abroad.
Director Frank Coraci mostly eschews a musical score in favor of deeply uncomfortable silence, content to let his stars gnaw on their awful dialogue without a modicum of musicality to fall back on. These amateurish underpinnings pop up elsewhere, most notably in the picture’s unfathomable editing – or lack thereof. Evidently no one involved in “Blended” knew that filmmakers typically don’t use everything they shoot, meaning that the pic plays like the bloated 2 hour test screening version of a movie destined for a mercifully brisk 80 minutes running time. But, no! Instead of overstaying its welcome by, say 79 minutes, it overstays it by nearly 120, as if challenging its audience to make it to the end. Some will. Many won’t.
When the film shifts to Africa, it transforms from incompetent mess into aggressively sexist, racist, and generally ugly mess, all of this spearheaded by a subplot that serves to mock Jim’s oldest daughter (Bella Thorne) for being too boyish. It peaks with an inevitable makeover reveal, relaying the lesson that sense of self is vitally important to being a woman, but only in relation to how attractive you appear to men. The character’s arc is this – victim of countless “is that a boy?” jokes, made over into “hot girl,” cast aside for remainder of film. It’s merely a slice of the picture’s awfulness, but it’s a particularly disgusting and potentially dangerous one. Impressionable young girls should be kept far away.
Terry Crews’ (“Idiocracy”) role as an African resort entertainer is equally troubling, the talented actor relegated to leading the film’s parade of buffoonish African stereotypes. The character is so poorly realized that a white actor in blackface couldn’t have been much more offensive, nor could the picture’s depiction of Africa as a tropical, touristy oasis of adorable animals, elaborate buffets, and couples massages. The screenplay never even mentions where in Africa the film takes place, content to marginalize an entire continent’s worth of people. But when a stable of screenwriters leans so heavily on “dead mom” jokes, it might be too much to expect racial sensitivity.
“Blended” is all so breathtakingly ill advised as to ultimately evoke a sense of wonderment. Is it possible to make something this bad by accident? The film certainly doesn’t rebuff those who believe Sandler is now toying with his fans, sadistically poking and prodding to find their breaking point. That the film plays like a vacuum packed void of anything resembling humor, emotion, or more generally, humanity is hard to reconcile with Sandler’s high points as a performer, but perhaps it’s as simple as a lack of concern. The actor is wealthy beyond anyone’s wildest dreams and it’s hard to begrudge anyone the kind of working retirement that scratches the itch of occasionally getting out of the house. Even so, the piece is awe-inspiring in its incompetence.
Some won’t ever fully recover from seeing “Blended,” but its victims will have no choice other than to continue living their lives, fondly looking back on their pre-“Blended” days – when the air smelled a little sweeter and food was that much tastier. If nothing else, the film paints the rest of Sandler’s work in a sunnier light, and it’s hard to imagine him plumbing these depths again. But few could have foretold the rottenness of his latest work, suggesting that he’s capable of lows even lower than his current low (that’s a lot of lows). In short, avoid “Blended” like it’s your job – because it is. Your future happiness could depend on it.
Rating: 1/2 ★ out of ★★★★★ (Garbage)
Release Date: May 23, 2014
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Frank Coraci
Screenwriter: Ivan Menchell, Clare Sera
Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Joel McHale, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Kevin Nealon, Jessica Lowe, Terry Crews, Bella Thorne
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for crude and sexual content, and language)