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BLENDED // Looking at the progression from “The Wedding Singer” to “50 First Dates” to the newest installment in the pairing of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, “Blended”, it is made painfully clear how far off base the quality of the films have fallen. Where “The Wedding Singer” had likable characters and somewhat edgy jokes, “Blended” has flat, one-dimensional characters and is about as tame as comedy gets. The biggest comedic moments are slapstick, with Sandler being tossed from an ostrich and Barrymore falling from the sky while parasailing. The only sequences I found mildly amusing were the running gags, including a chorus line headed by Terry Crews, chiming in at great points throughout the film, and a musical gag where different pop songs played from different people’s perspectives. Imagine, for instance, Sandler’s tomboy daughter (played by Bella Thorne) walking out for dinner looking gorgeous as “I’ll Make Love To You” by Boyz II Men plays from the love interest’s point-of-view, while “It’s The End Of The World” by R.E.M. plays from Sandler’s perspective. Even with some humorous additions, all of these jokes are few and far between and offer very minimal laughs.

The problem with Sandler’s new family brand of comedy is that the plot becomes so convoluted that the payoffs feel stinted. Jim (Sandler) and Lauren (Barrymore) are both single parents who find themselves on a horrible first date together. Fast-forward through a third of the film and both of their families end up at the same vacation destination where, instead of separating and enjoying their trip, they do everything together and are mostly miserable, eventually working through it “for the kids” and, you guessed it, falling madly in love. Although providing beautiful scenery for Sandler and Barrymore to chew, having the film set in South Africa feels like gimmickry, providing a brochure tour complete with safaris and tribal dances rather than any semblance of what one might actually do on vacation there. One gets the sense that the film was set in South Africa just to give Sandler a vacation from his normal surroundings. As mentioned, Terry Crews stands out with great comedic timing, even fitting in his dancing pectoral muscles, while Kevin Nealon also adds a stellar supporting role, but neither Crews’ muscles nor Nealon’s comedic chops can raise this film up from what it is, which is a half-hearted family comedy with zero chemistry and forced laughs.

[Directed by Frank Coraci] [PG-13] [117 min] [23 May 2014]   03onehalf-stars

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