Blended is awful. Worse, it doesn’t even have the decency to be awful in an interesting way. I secretly love a bit of bad film rubbernecking, a ‘what-the-hell-were-they-thinking?’ trainwreck like Sandler’s Jack and Jill or That’s My Boy. Films like these are bonkers awful – so bad you can squeeze a fragment of masochistic pleasure from them. Not so with Blended. Here, Adam Sandler briefly steps away from his usual self-congratulatory manchild fare and attempts a schmaltzy, super-cutesy family romcom. And it’s even worse than usual.
I’m willing to bet the genesis of this project was that Adam Sandler fancied a holiday in Africa and convinced the studio to fund it so long as he plopped out a movie while he was there. So, working from a creaky script presumably plucked from a dusty studio shelf, we enter an overly familiar world of cute brats, casual racism and gloopy, saccharine romance. Sandler plays single dad Jim Friedman, manager of a sporting goods store and father of three daughters. He’s your typical Sandler chump with a heart of gold protagonist, the only wrinkle being that his wife died of cancer, though her memory is primarily used to excuse his obnoxious behaviour. Drew Barrymore is single mother of two boys Lauren Reynolds, an interior designer who’s neat, fussy and precise; the exact opposite of Sandler. After a painfully convoluted explanation, the two families eventually end up sharing a suite in an African holiday resort. Will they learn to get along? Will Sandler’s can-do masculinity help Barrymore’s wayward sons? Will Barrymore’s maternal charms win over Sandler’s tomboy daughters?
I guarantee whatever you’re imagining is more interesting than what happens in Blended, a film so comatose it’s as if it’s been shot with a tranquillizer dart. Sandler actually appears to be genuinely sedated, slurring his words and frequently blankly staring at the camera with a dead-eyed, bovine expression. You expect a line of drool to trickle down his chin as he torturously picks his way through his lines, his diction distorted and warped like a toy whose battery has begun to run down. The only point where he comes to life is when he’s strapped to an ostrich, which proceeds to run around while he maniacally whoops. Then again, I suspect this is a stuntman pretending to be Sandler, because by this point it’s doubtful that your average ostrich is able to support his increasingly bloated frame.
Barrymore comes off a little better (at least she’s fully conscious). She’s firmly on autopilot with one eye set on the paycheque, but next to Sandler’s valium-tinged delirium, autopilot doesn’t seem so bad. Miraculously, the child actors all come out of this relatively unscathed, and Bella Thorne as Sandler’s tomboy teenage daughter astonishingly manages to wring a tiny drop of pathos from the material. But though individuals within the film might be tolerable, they’re ultimately treading water in a rancid ocean of sewage.
Every single aspect of Blended is notable for how little effort has been expended on it. The direction looks like a cheap sitcom, the film contains about five minutes of desultory score, and there’s a criminal amount of stock footage. This is supposedly a comedy, yet the jokes float aimlessly through the air, fruitlessly searching for a punchline. Just as one example, there’s a throwaway gag about a character having a hairy neck, but the actor they cast doesn’t actually have a hairy neck. Perhaps best illustrative of this numbing faux-comedy is a moment where Sandler and Barrymore spot two CGI rhinoceroses humping in the middle of an otherwise nice view. The two actors stare at it blankly for a moment, their expressionless faces looking eerily like Romero zombies, then shuffle off camera. We cut to a smiling African man who winks at the camera and says, “You don’t see that in New Jersey!”
Are you laughing? No? Well, neither was the audience.
More egregious is the films patronizing treatment of Africans. Blended‘s Africa is less a representation of any particular country and more a pan-African theme park, with elephant statues everywhere, lion paintings on the walls and zebra stripe bedsheets. Within this Disneyland kitsch the Africans themselves are stereotyped at best as song and dance minstrels and at worst as intrinsically lazy, incompetent and dangerous. It feels skin-crawlingly icky to see a running joke based around Africans apparent propensity to fall asleep at the slightest provocation, and repeated jibes at their innate clumsy, disaster-prone forgetfulness.
The nadir is a cringe-worthily racist sequence where Drew Barrymore, a rictus grin plastered onto her face, does The Running Man dance in front of a whooping crowd of straight up bone-through-the-nose, spear-chucking style African tribesman. As embarrassed as I felt for Barrymore, I felt ten times more embarrassed for the extras.
Bearing down over all this is Sandler’s infuriatingly invincible mug. He’s elevated himself to a position where he can crank out an endless parade of no effort, no joke, talent free slices of dreck like Blended, all of which will make him millions of dollars. I guess the real joke is on us critics, as no matter how hard we mewl and moan, people still flock to Sandler’s movies, causing us to suffer the twin wounds of feeling increasingly irrelevant and actually having to watch them.
Please don't go and see Blended. It's a quasi-racist, deeply boring waste of time, money and talent that makes the world an imperceptibly worse place merely by existing.