The 400-Word Review: Blended
By Sean Collier
June 16, 2014
Stupid. Stupid, stupid stupid. Stupid? Stupid. Stupid stupid. Stupid! Stupid; stupid stupid.
Hmm. That’s only 12 words. I really just wanted to write the word stupid 400 times.
Blended, the third on-screen pairing of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore (and the fourth Sandler film helmed by artless director Frank Coraci), concerns single parents Jim (Sandler) and Lauren (Barrymore) who hate each other as the result of a mildly unpleasant blind date. When circumstances land them and their respective offspring on a shared African vacation, everyone learns to love each other. Sorry, spoilers.
It’s hardly worth the effort to diagnose the structural flaw in a script that aims so low, but here it is anyway: Blended, uh, blends styles carelessly, overwriting one minute and then going for a joke about monkey butlers the next. Several subplots, including Jim’s evolving relationship with his daughters, are almost-nicely fleshed out and quite nearly touching; then Lauren will smack her young son’s head off a concrete wall for a cheap gag. A set of wacky side characters in a May-December romance (Kevin Nealon and Jessica Lowe) are given the chance to turn their story into a round, impactful mini-drama; later, Jim will make his tomboy daughter Hilary (Bella Thorne) stomp on another kid’s testicles to dominate a two-on-two basketball game.
It’s not a calculated risk; it’s lazy writing. Sometimes Blended is absurdist, sometimes it’s dark and sometimes it’s fully earthbound. Coraci, king of the presentational non-factors behind the camera, certainly wasn’t going to add an overriding tone, so the asynchronous nonsense on the page was left intact.
Even that mess, though, pales in comparison to Blended’s biggest problem: It may well be the most stunningly racist comedy of the 21st century. The South Africa to which Jim and Lauren travel is to reality as Disney World’s EPCOT Center snack stands are to the countries they represent — and that probably undersells the cultural complexity of EPCOT Center. This is Africa by way of a 1950s coloring book: dashikis, lions and dancing natives. Literally every black character in Blended — a movie that spends two-thirds of its running time in Africa — appears as a servant or entertainer for a predominantly white group of tourists.
It’s inexcusable, and the filmmakers should be ashamed. There are traces of heart and some nice relationships in Blended, but they sit beneath a staggeringly offensive shadow.
Stupid. Stupid, stupid stupid.
My Rating: 2/10
Score on CriticsChoice.com: 60/100
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark