Blended - Family dysfunction at a new low - One star

Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore have had success together with The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, but can their chemistry blend well a third time? 

Walking into the cinema...
 Adam Sandler's appeal is an enigma. Outside of a glimmer of brilliance in Punch Drunk Love and Reign Over Me, he plays the same character in most films. Having to go to one of his films causes a bit of trepidation, but could the intriguing chemistry between Barrymore and Sandler had some enticement? 

Cinematic value: 1 star
Based on a recent review of Godzilla, audiences were encouraged to judge the film based on the context of the genre. The review stated to not judge the film too harshly, but to have fun watching the film. Reviewing Blended, the same thing could be said about family comedies. They are a tried and true form of entertainment. Directors and writers have delved into the treasure trove of family situations. Especially the bringing together of two families or the more recent term, blended families. Parental and sibling jealousy, a need for both parents and the challenges of  single parenthood opens the door for emotion, laughs and a need for family. All that being said, this film has some difficulties within this genre, because of director Frank Coraci (Zookeeper, The Waterboy) and Adam Sandler (Grown Ups). The realist knows that the expectations go to the lowest common denominator of cinematic experiences. One thing can be said about this collaborative team is they are predictable and consistent, but not in a good way. 

Blended begins in the toilet of Hooters restaurant and the story does not move too far beyond this level of humour. Jim (Sandler) and Lauren (Drew Barrymore) are single parents who find themselves on a disastrous blind date at Hooters. After the date, they desire to forget the whole experience and return to their families. Their families give a platform to love, dysfunction and parental challenges that both experience. True to family comedies, are the stereotypical work colleagues and friends who give them relationship advice and the irresponsible ex-husband who adds relational tension to the story. Then a unique opportunity presents itself to both families to take advantage of a holiday in South Africa. The twist is that neither family knows the other family is going to be on this holiday until their arrival. Making the best of the awkward situation, they choose to continue on the tourist adventure of Africa. The slapstick, toilet humour, unnecessary African stereotypes and familial jokes fly in typical Coraci fashion. As the story progresses, there seems to be a glimmer of hope in this family comedy. An obvious need for both loving parents. The girls show the need of a mother's care and touch and the boys secretly want the influence of an involved and caring father. In the end, the real challenge for Jim and Lauren is to determine if they are right for one another and to determine if are they ready for this blended relationship.

Based on the summary, this has the potential to be the family comedy of the season. There are tender moments and an appreciation of the nuclear family. Sandler and Barrymore play imperfect, but involved parents who want the best for their children. This is where the accolades end. The frustration of the film is in the direction of the story. For every endearing and heart-warming moment in the film, Coraci has a sex joke to counter the moment. This causes a roller coaster of 'good feeling, good feeling gone' experiences. The emotional vacuum that occurs gets to a point of being ludicrous and predictable. On top of the poor direction is the poor acting. You may not expect award winning script writing or acting with this genre of film, but then you know that Sandler and Barrymore can deliver better performances based on other films. The lead actors and supporting cast seem to mail in their performance. The children are left with the responsibility of giving us the emotional lift in the film, which wears thin after awhile. The film is left with nothing to offer than a few emotional morsels and a multitude of unnecessary innuendo. The final drawback of this film is the use of Africa as a backdrop. It is beautiful and has the potential to have endearing value, but the film fails to deliver a positive representation of the continent. The story leaves us with the same stereotypes that you come to expect of many ill conceived depictions of Africa. 

Based on the previews, Blended should translate to family film, but do not be fooled. A film that begins in Hooters and goes downhill from there is a film that does not deliver. This is not a film for families or for anyone with discerning cinematic tastes. For every sentimental moment or a touching family scene, it gets spoilt with unnecessary humour. The film does receive one star for its attempt to show the value of a mother and father in the lives of their children. The importance of family is the only redeeming quality in this film, but it inevitably descends into Hooter's toilet humour. 
Overall Rating: 1 star

Leaving the cinema...
Expectation met. I could have left early and I would have known the outcome. I cannot recommend this film out of professional and personal integrity. If you are to choose a family film this month, see How to Train Your Dragon 2 instead. 

Bigger questions:
1. How should families respond to one another?  (Matthew 15:4, Ephesians 6:1-4)
2. What is God's view on marriage? (Genesis 2:24, Hebrews 13:4)
3. Why do people still go to Adam Sandler films? (Proverbs 26:11)

Written by Russell Matthews based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews