Two stars (out of four)
By Stephanie Merry
ADVOCATE news services
Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions churns out some of the most idiotic comedies to land on the big screen. To wit: Last year’s Grown Ups 2 was one of the worst movies since 2012’s That’s My Boy, which was at least slightly better than Razzie winner Jack and Jill, from 2011.
Compared to its forebears, the romantic comedy Blended looks like Annie Hall.
Of course, the bar is low. But when the fire alarm started ringing an hour into a recent screening of the movie and the whole audience had to file out to the street, just about everyone appeared to return for the final hour. So that’s something.
Sixteen years since Sandler starred opposite Drew Barrymore in The Wedding Singer and a decade since they starred together in 50 First Dates, the pair have grown up, even if the comedy hasn’t.
They play Jim and Lauren, two single parents who go on a disastrous blind date.
Not only does Jim take Lauren to Hooters and drain her beer while she’s in the bathroom, but he only pays for his half of the tab. Worse, he beats Lauren to the punch getting an “emergency” call halfway through the date, which was exactly the exit strategy she was planning.
Basically, Jim is a schlubby Mr. Darcy, antagonizing Lauren only to potentially win her over later, when the two, each with their children, coincidentally end up on the same African safari vacation for Brady Bunch-esque blended families.
There are a lot of misses when it comes to the comedy, whether it’s seeing rhinos mid-coitus or the recurring gag of Lauren carrying one of her sleeping sons to bed and slamming his head into door jambs.
One extended scene involving crocodiles seems to exist solely so Sandler can say he got so scared he made a “zebra stripe” in his underwear.
One of the most dependable jokes comes courtesy of Terry Crews: The Brooklyn Nine-Nine star plays a spirited and muscled resort troubadour who shows up singing at the oddest moments, always with a huge group of backup singers.
Blended is more successful when it lets itself be sentimental. Jim’s middle daughter, Espn (Emma Fuhrmann) — pronounced “Espin,” her namesake is the television network — talks constantly to her dead mother, even saving seats for Jim’s late wife at the breakfast table.
And his youngest daughter, Lou (the adorable Alyvia Alyn Lind), is in such desperate need of a mom figure, she latches onto Lauren the moment they meet.
But the filmmakers, including director Frank Coraci (who also did The Wedding Singer), seem terrified to dwell in sensitive territory for too long. Each sweet moment is inevitably punctuated by some in-your-face joke that’s at least as stupid as the preceding moments were heartfelt.
Blended has other problems, too, including some faulty editing and a typically predictable finale.
But there are some genuinely sweet and funny moments, which are more than enough to exceed expectations.
Stephanie Merry is a syndicated Washington Post movie critic.