These days, Adam Sandler is a bottle of beer that’s lost all its bubbles – cheap, mass-produced domestic beer.
So let’s focus on what works in his latest, “Blended,” because he sure doesn’t.
Drew Barrymore, in her third pairing with Sandler, still brings energy and conviction to her performance as Lauren, a mother of two thrown together on an African vacation with this lump she met on the Blind Date from Hell – a blind date at Hooters.
Wendi McClendon-Covey, playing her best friend, Jen, delivers a comically furious turn and either upstages Barrymore or forces Drew to play at her level. Watch and listen to the two of them berate an obnoxious, snarky loser-dad at Lauren’s son’s Little League game – shouting, talking over each other, name-calling. It’s Vince-and-Owen-in-“Wedding Crashers” good.
And then there’s Terry Crews, who steals the movie as the emcee and singer of an African vocal group at the Sun City resort where Jim (Sandler), the sad sporting goods salesman, and Lauren, the professional closet organizer, and their five kids end up in an absurdly contrived joint vacation/safari.
The wild-eyed Crews, dancing and crooning, bumping and grinding, sings of the “blending” that will go on during this week of nontraditional families wildlife watching and bonding. He is the Greek chorus for this obvious, stale and stiff comedy, a shirtless jolt of life (the man’s pecs do a dance all their own) in this lesser entry in the career of the aptly nicknamed “Sandman.”
We are deep into the “family comedy” stage of Sandler’s working life, families where the kids cuss and rhinos hump, where Jim urinating long and loudly outside of a tent is played for a laugh, where the past-expiration-date Kevin Nealon and a jiggly/funny Jessica Lowe (the new Anna Faris?) are the oversexed other “nontraditional family” that the Lauren-Jim ensemble pair up with.
Jim is raising three emotionally stunted daughters to be pseudo-jocks. Who nicknames his daughter Hilary (Bella Thorne) “Larry”? Who would name his troubled middle daughter (Emma Fuhrmann), the one who “still talks to (dead) Mom,” Espn?
Maybe the sort of guy who peoples his movies with jocks (Shaq) and jockcasters (Dan Patrick) in cameos, along with other washed-up comics of his generation.
Jim’s a widower, meant to explain Sandler’s sleepwalking demeanor. His daughters need a mom.
Lauren is newly divorced, with a maddeningly rude and hormonal teen (Braxton Beckham) and tantrum-tossing ’tween (Kyle Red Silverstein), both of whom need a father figure, since their dad (Joel McHale) is a no-show.
Every set-up is an eye-roller. Jim and Lauren stumble into each other at the drugstore. He’s cluelessly buying tampons for his teen; she’s replacing a porn mag she ripped up for her teen.
Gags and one-liners that would be discarded in a better comedy are trotted out and then underlined here. When Lauren gives the tomboy “Larry” a girlish makeover, she debuts hearing “I’m Every Woman” in her head, her possible new beau hears “I’ll Make Love to You” while her dad panics and hears “It’s the End of the World, and We Know It.” Hilarious. Let’s repeat that joke, shall we? They do.
The African scenes include digital ostrich riding and a digital monkey band performing “Careless Whisper.”
And in the middle of it all is Sandler, aimlessly going through the motions, a character others dismiss as “a buffoon,” “a chubby loser” in need of a fist-bump. Even Barrymore, who has gotten rich on “The Wedding Singer” and “50 First Dates,” has a hard time giving him one in this flat-beer farce.