If The Wedding Singer is the Annie Hall of Adam Sandler movies, then Blended is his Anything Else. Sandler and Drew Barrymore unite for a third time, after 50 First Dates, but like an unhappy old married couple staring at the clock, they ran out of fresh and meaningful things to say years ago. Sandler plays a Dick’s Sporting Goods employee named Jim who lost his wife to cancer and hasn’t a clue how to raise his three daughters. The eldest, for example, is named Hilary (Bella Thorne) but Jim calls her Larry presumably because she’s good at basketball and has Larry Bird’s 1979 hairstyle.
Barrymore plays Lauren, a working single mom with two holy terror sons, one of whom is pulsating with puberty and a pornography obsession. Jim and Lauren get set up on a disastrous blind date, and both part ways hoping to never see the other again. But before you can say, “Hey guys, it’s Adam. I convinced a studio to finance our group vacation to South Africa as long as we make a movie with oodles of product placement,” both families are thrust together at a luxurious resort that specializes in blended and nontraditional-family vacations. How and why? Does it really matter?
Once in South Africa, mutual loathing turns to mutual respect, with Lauren giving Hilary a makeover and Jim helping Lauren’s boys with sports. When Lauren discovers Jim’s sensitive soul, and Jim sees Lauren in a sexy black dress… well, I don't want to ruin the ending for you!
Blended is dotted with familiar faces from previous Sandler comedies and a few hammy celebrity cameos, but only Kevin Nealon who plays a middle-aged dad enamored with his buxom new bimbo delivers any solid laughs. (Poor Joel McHale didn’t even get to visit Africa for the lackluster assignment of playing Lauren’s douche-y ex, whose one-line character description must’ve been, “Craig Kilborn in Old School.”)
Though he’s starring in promising upcoming films from directors Tom McCarthy and Jason Reitman, Sandler still seems shackled with the golden handcuffs of making easy, lucrative comedies, from Click to Bedtime Stories to Grown Ups. In Blended, his comic flab has never felt as thick, and this hackneyed "family-friendly" entertainment feels less like a movie than a bad sit-com re-run. D+