You know you’re in trouble when people laugh at your production company sequence before the movie even starts. Alas, that’s where we’re at with Happy Madison and Adam Sandler. It’s the same tired schmaltz and shtick and spiel that it’s always been.
Blended employs the same combo we’ve seen too many times before: Drew Barrymore as a cute ditzy blonde, Sandler as the weird funny guy with a hard edge and a soft side. What spark they once had has gone stale. It’s like they’re really stuck in the 50 First Dates love-trap: now they’re trying to find something, anything that works. This combo used to be nougat. Now it just smells like nutsack.
Lauren’s (Barrymore) divorced with two little boys. Their characters revolve around typical boyhood challenges: the older one masturbates to pictures of his babysitter crudely taped to Playboys; the younger one sucks at baseball and his Dad (a douchey Joel McHale) never wants to play catch. Lauren organizes closets for “Closet Queens” with her friend Jen (Wendi McLendon-Covey, who seems to have taken acting lessons from the Grandma in The Room), who’s dating Dick from Dick’s Sporting Goods. Yeah, that Dick.
Jim (Sandler) manages a Dick’s alongside Shaquille O’Neal. His wife died of cancer (the film could’ve gone by the title 50 First Dead Mom Jokes), leaving him to struggle with three daughters: Hilary, Espn (named after his favorite TV network!) and Lou. Espn’s got Haley Joel Osment’s sixth sense when it comes to mommy: she saves a seat at the table for momma, she talks to her in her bedroom. Hilary (“Larry”) is a tomboy teen that daddy won’t let come out of her shell. Lou is a cute little girl who says “butthole.”
Jim takes Lauren on a date to Hooters, which goes swimmingly: she spits out hot buffalo shrimp and spills French onion soup all over herself, he drinks her beer. They end up hating each other. Let’s cut to the chase: afraid of being bad parents, they both get their hands on tickets “TO AFRICA!!!” without knowing that the other family’s going along with them. Typical shenanigans and bonding and romantic tension ensues. Do I have to say it? This premise is fucking terrible.
“Is everyone ready to see the real Africa?” an African guy asks as they get off the plane. Blended leaves it at that. Sandler’s Africa never goes as far as to mention what part of Africa they’re in, or who these people are. Instead, we’re led to believe that the entire continent is filled with singing and dancing sweaty black folk surrounded by an endless safari of crocodiles, lions and elephants. The fact that Sandler so often uses “Africans” as entertainment and fodder for bad humor is downright offensive. Terry Crews leads an acapella group that follows Sandler and his crew around everywhere while singing stupid shit. Everyone is there to serve the rich white folk that have ventured their way into this “wilderness.” Sandler’s Africa is nothing but cheap accents and cheaper African garb.
But cheapest of all are the jokes, and gosh darn is there slapstick. Grandma’s crash into things on ATVs, Sandler falls into a vat of Dodo urine, Barrymore’s profession is mined for lesbian jokes, Adam tries to out-fart an elephant, the “Africans” say goofy African things, Barrymore catches her kid masturbating…the list goes on. You’d think they would’ve gotten tired of all these crap jokes: Blended is just 50 First Dates Does Africa.
Blended then tries to take on gender identity, in the most basic way possible. Sandler has difficulty as a father of three girls, while Barrymore just can’t figure out how to raise her two sons. Their simple solution: pops can buy the porn while momma buys the tampons. Throughout, there’s the assumption that men and women find figuring out the opposite sex impossible. Sandler doesn’t want to let his daughters out of their tomboy casing, but his girls just want to dress up and look pretty. Barrymore’s boys want to be good at sports and the older one is constantly horny. Screenwriters Clare Sera and Ivan Menchell don’t know what to do with their characters, so they resort to the same conclusion every dimwit always seems to come to: boys have penises and girls have vaginas.
Sandler’s Rotten Tomatoes page is more verdant than a fresh can of Green Giant. You’ve gotta go down a long ways until you can find anything worthwhile. Grown Ups 2? Why is this a thing? That’s My Boy? Try again. Just Go With It? I’ll go without, thanks. Grown Ups? Groan. Jack and Jill? Fuck no.
What’s happened to Sandler is truly a disaster. Trust me; I’ve seen The Wedding Singer at least thirty times. It’s classic Adam: quirky, brooding, clever, timeless slapstick. Happy Madison is the same way. Back then he could afford to gamble, to put himself out there. Now his ruminating, dark comedy shtick just comes off as sad: all that’s left is a depressive sack that can’t cope with getting old, fat and tired while watching his kids grow up. His well ran dry somewhere in between Grandma’s Boy and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan and he’s been scraping at brick since then.
Funny People (directed by Judd Apatow) was Sandler’s last great movie: a movie about comedians that’s not funny and doesn’t try to be. There, we saw Sandler’s dark side: George Simmons, a lonely, lost, scared comedian who’s afraid to be a nobody and even more afraid to be famous. Sandler’s Simmons wasn’t funny. His stuff was sad. But his vulnerability came out. Funny People was fitting because we saw Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill—new blood, the hot kids in town challenging him for his thrown—right next to Sandler. The truth is, they were funnier. Sandler didn’t need anyone to tell him that because he saw it up close: no one wants to see a 47-year old guy do a little boy voice anymore.
One has to wonder where the self-reflective Sandler went. Maybe he’s too afraid to be vulnerable, or he’s still clinging to the glory days. Really, the same should be said for Drew Barrymore too. They’ve earned each other. Blended was the appropriate title for this place in their careers: at this point, everything seems to mix together into nothingness.
I’ve been racking my brain trying to find out why Blended was even made, and who it was made for. Really, who is the demographic here? It boggles the mind. Maybe this one will go over well in old folks’ homes and at the zoo. Anyone older than 12 can’t possibly like this stuff, right? I would tell you not to go see this film, but you don’t need me to tell you that: Sandler’s name already did the work for me.
Can you still call yourself a comedian if people are laughing at you?