May 23, 2014

'Blended' movie review

By Carl Kozlowski *

Over the past few decades, it has become an unfortunate reality that divorce rates have risen to new heights in the US, with one of the results being families that are forced to live together when the parents decide to remarry. While this doesn’t meet approval from the Catholic Church and many other denominations, people do deal with these situations, and the new movie “Blended” offers both laughs and some touching moments as it shows what can go wrong on the way to finally turning out right.

Starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in their third movie together, following 1998’s “The Wedding Singer” and 2004’s “50 First Dates,” “Blended” is a surefire hit in the romantic comedy genre. It doesn’t hit the highs of those prior collaborations, which became perennial favorites after their initial smash-hit runs in theatres, but the terrific chemistry between the two stars and plenty of wacky one-liners and slapstick moments come together strongly enough to make it enjoyable – if marred somewhat by a bevy of sexual innuendoes throughout the film.

The movie opens on divorced mother Lauren (Barrymore) and widower dad Jim (Sandler) having a disastrous blind date at a Hooters. Lauren think Jim is both clueless and cheap for taking her there, not realizing that his wife died of cancer and had previously worked as the restaurant’s manager, making it seem like a normal place to go.

Through a series of twists, they discover that Jim’s boss is dating Lauren’s best friend (Wendy McClendon-Covey, who is hilarious) – and when the boss and best friend fight, their romantic trip to Africa with their respective children is canceled. Lauren’s friend gives her tickets, while Jim buys his boss’ tickets from him. Unwittingly, both Lauren and Jim have thus accidentally set up having the same long vacation together.

As Jim and Lauren each bond with their children, they are forced to get to know each other and each starts to sympathize with the other’s lives. The African sequences are mostly a series of silly situations, such as Jim riding ostriches with Lauren’s son or Lauren parasailing and nearly crash-landing into a rhino, mixed with sweet emotional moments of the parents bonding with their kids in touching ways.

These African scenes also make up for an oddly paced first half-hour of the film, which drags too long as it shows the normal daily lives of Lauren and Jim and slowly sets the machinations that bring them together on the other side of the planet. Here, director Frank Coraci seems to be most at fault, with lazy staging in which a few scenes seem to consist of calling the actors in front of the camera to merely recite their lines without feeling.

There are also lots of risqué jokes, with several involving Jim’s oldest daughter and Lauren’s oldest son. The issues of menstruation and masturbation are verbally joked about rather than shown, and because the overall movie has such a sweet tone and pro-family message, the good message and overall plot far outweigh the bad elements.  

When Jim’s tomboy daughter finally gets a makeover from Lauren, for instance, her resulting first date with a boy on the trip is shown as good clean fun – and there are no sex scenes with adults either. There are only about 10 mild swear words in the film, with no F-words either.

It’s the touching moments that surprise and hit home the hardest, revealing the big heart beating under the surface of the film. Sandler and Barrymore bring their A-game to the movie as well, giving us a sweet and relatable couple to root for while making an especially strong call for good fathers and showing the impact they have on kids’ lives.

Overall, “Blended” proves highly enjoyable and has its heart in the right place enough that it’s hard to hold its raunchier jokes against it. It’s a solid movie for teens and adults who don’t mind some risqué humor mixed in with overall innocent fun.

Carl Kozlowski has been a professional film critic and essayist for the past five years at Pasadena Weekly, in addition to the Christian movie site, the conservative pop culture site Breitbart.coms Big Hollywood, the Christian pop culture magazine Relevant and New City newspaper in Chicago. He also writes in-depth celebrity interviews for and The Progressive. He is owner of the podcasting site, which was named one of the Frontier Fifty in 2013 as one of the 50 best talk-radio outlets in the nation by and will be relaunching it in January 2014 after a five-month sabbatical. He lives in Los Angeles.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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