Let’s start off with what works in this film. The family dynamics and the conveyance of life lessons are successful and engaging, if not especially authentic or original. Every member of the blended family has a personality and a story, and they each demonstrate a moment of development and growth. This is a welcome element when one considers that such character development could easily have been cast aside in favor of another dozen flat and childish jokes. It helps make the film feel more well-rounded. I was also mostly pleased with the budding romance between Sandler and Barrymore. These actors have known one another for many years, and their real-life friendship works in their favor as their characters start to open up to one another. In the film, it is each star’s interactions with the other’s children that really brings them together, helping them to better understand one another. I know it’s a bit of a hokey approach, but in a mostly lackluster film, the construction of these relationships is one of the stronger points.
What doesn’t work so well is the comedy. ‘Meh’ to the MAX. It is incredibly generic, inorganic and forced. Yes, there are moments where I genuinely laughed out loud, but I spent most of the film cringing at the awkward and predictable gags. The humor is very much in line with Adam Sandler’s reputation; if you’ve seen his films before, then you know what to expect. Now, familiarity is not necessarily a bad thing, I just wish it was more familiar with his earlier work than his recent efforts. Blended feels like a step back, rather than a step forward. It lacks creativity, and the film is littered with completely unnecessary Happy Madison cameos.
In the end, my experience was mixed. I liked a good portion of the family dynamics and the developing romance between the two stars, but the comedy was certainly hit and miss. Actually, it was mostly miss. I haven’t even touched on the portrayal of the African continent in this film; I understand that it’s a comedy and that it wants to focus on the light-hearted and cheery parts of life, but the environments in which the characters find themselves and the people with whom they interact are very stereotypical. Not that I expected much more from an Adam Sandler movie.
If you’re a fan of Sandler’s recent efforts, then you’ll love this film. If you’re looking for the more creative and charismatic Adam Sandler of The Wedding Singer, Happy Gilmore and 50 First Dates, you’ll likely be disappointed. Let’s hope that his next effort is a return to form.