You know those real estate scams where you're offered a free vacation if you just sit through a time-share presentation and that time-share presentation seems never-ending, because even if it's just two hours, what you really wanted was a free vacation?
For Adam Sandler, filmmaking is like that time-share presentation.
All the guy wants is to get major motion picture studios to subsidize his vacations. Is that so wrong? If Sony or Warner Brothers said to you, "How would you like an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii or Africa or a secluded lake? And all you have to do is deliver a movie and nobody on our side will even ask to see a script or bother looking at the final cut," what would you say? You'd accept the deal. Don't deny it.
It's obvious that Sandler and his partners-in-vacation-loving-crime don't especially enjoy the quid pro quo required for their global galavanting, but like that monotonous time-share presentation, a mid-range budgeted theatrical comedy is the price they have to pay for a situation I assume is luxurious.
Trust me, if Sandler could get vacations in exchange for an Allen Covert-centric features, he'd do nothing but produce. Unfortunately, a sequel to "Grandma's Boy" isn't getting you even as far as Shreveport.
In the name of a comped holiday, Sandler has meandered through offerings that range from mediocre-but-unsettling (the amnesiac romance of "50 First Dates" creeps me out) to downright cinematic crimes ("Grown Ups," "Grown Ups 2," that thing with Brooklyn Decker).
That's a preamble to my warning that I sat down for "Blended," a temporary impediment to Sandler and Drew Barrymore enjoying a vacation in South Africa, with trepidation, having already cringed through the trailers on the behalf of the absurdly talented Terry Crews, seemingly clowning his way through a stereotypical African musical act that probably should have been dubbed Ladysmith Black ManBozo. [Thanks to Twitter follower @EstherK for recognizing "ManBozo" was funnier in this context than just "MamBozo." If either is funny, I mean.]
You say "pre-judging." I say "citing ample precedent." But at this point, nobody goes into Adam Sandler movies a blank slate. You either dread every low-brow comedy and wish for "Punch-Drunk Love II," or you're willing to forgive nearly anything in perpetuity because "Billy Madison," "The Wedding Singer" and "The Waterboy" were all hella funny back in the day.
You need to know the context and the perspective so that you know how many grains of salt to take this with:
"Blended" is far from the worst movie to come out of a studio-subsidized Adam Sandler vacation.
In fact, I'd wager that there's a serviceably so-so movie hiding within the flabby bloat of the 117 minute "Blended" running time. With a better director and a more discerning editor, "Blended" might have been trimmed and reshaped into a 90-minute family dramedy that still might have allowed for a couple shots of humping rhinos and for two or three iterations of a gag in which a mother whacks her sleeping son's head against a wall or a door. As it stands, "Blended" is a woefully unfunny movie, but almost despite itself, there are moments of fleeting human emotion, delivered largely by Barrymore and young co-stars Emma Furmann and Alyvia Alyn Lind.
By the end, I wouldn't say that I was especially moved by "Blended," but I respected its mawkish aspirations more than its attempts at predictable family-style bawdiness.
More after the break...