BlendedcoverGrade: B
Entire family: No
2014, 117 min., Color
Warner Bros.
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content and language
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Featured audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UV copy
Bonus features: B-
Trailer

Sometimes you just have to ignore the buzz. Our family had heard that Blended, the latest Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore comedy, wasn’t all that good. But hey, I said, we loved them together in The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, so let’s give it a chance.

We did, and our whole family was entertained—enough to watch it again in the future. Yes, there were some cheesy spots and a few gags that fell flat, but that’s the nature of comedies—especially those that try to balance humor with warm fuzzy moments.

So I’m going to have to disagree with my colleagues at Rotten Tomatoes that gave this film a crappy 14 percent “rotten” rating—meaning only 14 critics out of 100 liked it. The telltale sign is that 66 percent of the Rotten Tomatoes readers liked it, and audiences aren’t looking to criticize. They’re just looking to have a good time. So were we.

Blended won’t be for everyone, though, because it does try to do the impossible: to make a family movie that’s also adult, insomuch as it’s full of put-downs, sexual innuendo, and slapstick that bounces back and forth between the adult and juvenile realms. Running gags include the girls’ boyish looks, one “blended” couple’s get-a-room antics, a 15-year-old girl’s flat chest, and a boy’s babysitter and dirty magazine fetish. Blended is rated PG-13 for “crude and sexual content and language,” and parents who are uncomfortable letting their children watch films like that will want to take a pass.

But you know what? The juggling of adult and family content is the realistic theme of this film—and the bulk of it takes place at a South African resort specializing in blended families, one which makes no bones about wanting to keep (or rekindle) the flame between the mother and father so that they don’t just think of themselves as 24/7 parents. 

Romantic comedies have a “meet cute,” but Jim (Sandler) and Lauren (Barrymore) have an absolutely disastrous first date. For them, it’s a “meet again cute.” Jim decides to take his three girls and Lauren her two boys to a family resort in South Africa—an opportunity that presents itself when Lauren’s best friend turns down Jim’s boss for a “familymoon.” Unbeknownst to each other, they try to capitalize on an already paid-for trip and end up having to share space and present themselves as the Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO and his soon-to-be-blended family.

BlendedscreenDick’s Sporting Goods gets the biggest movie product placement since Tom Hanks plugged FedEx in Cast Away, but who cares? It sets up a situation where a sports-oriented guy who probably wanted a boy ends up calling his oldest daughter Hillary “Larry” for short,and pushes her to be tough in basketball—this, from a guy who named his second daughter Espn (yep, after his favorite TV network). And Lauren? Her sons seem out of control, with the oldest a chronic masturbator (adult themes, right?). It doesn’t take a mind reader to figure out that by film’s end Jim will have bonded with the boys because he knows testosterone and can help them channel their wild side, while Lauren will have helped the girls come out of their mostly male shells. That’s a given. And to be honest, if the film decided to walk a completely wholesome line, it might have been predictably boring, instead of just predictable. We know what’s going to happen, but the put-down jokes that begin with the world’s worst blind date and the kids’ transformations give the scenes a kind of raw (pun intended) vitality.

Parts, like the ubiquitous South African by way of Vegas a cappella singers, will remind you of other films—in this case, the troubadours from There’s Something about Mary, and yet they’re also every bit as accurate as the kind of entertainment you’d find at a tourist hotel. Barrymore goes a little high on the act-crazy meter, but Sandler is his characteristic dry, sarcastic, understated self. And while we know they’re going to get together in the end, Blended is less a romantic comedy about two people than it is a comedy about single parents bonding with someone else’s kids. Joel McHale has a dry and somewhat bland role as Lauren’s ex, but that’s the only character-casting disappointment. Even the South Africans make you laugh in this weirdly raunchy-and-sweet LOL comedy.

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