Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Cinema File #358: "Blended" Review


Ordinarily I target my reviews at the average moviegoer, but right now, I need to address the critical establishment at large for a second. Now, I know your job is hard, all those movies you have to sit through and get paid to give your useless fucking opinion on for people who don't give a shit and never have, coal miners have nothing on you. Still, is it too much to ask that when you publish a review for an Adam Sandler movie, that you actually, you know, watch it first? I understand that his pattern of awfulness makes it very tempting to just keep a file folder with a generic review full of synonyms for terrible and just fill in the blanks with wikipedia every time he comes out with a new movie, but sometimes, that approach doesn't actually fit with reality. Sometimes, his movies aren't actually as bad as you need them to be to have one consistent thing in your otherwise chaotic and pointless lives. Case in point: Blended.


Blended is the story of two single parents forced together against their will on a family vacation to Africa via one of those silly contrivances that only happen in movies, which inevitably always lead to wacky adventures and burgeoning love and understanding. Nothing different here, and nothing altogether offensive or mean spirited either. In fact, I really can't find a single thing egregiously wrong with this movie at all, certainly nothing to justify the nearly uniform contempt its gotten from virtually every review I've read. Its not amazing or even great by any means, but its pleasantly okay, sweet and funny in spots, and generally in keeping with the best of Sandler's live action comedies, all of which happen to also star Drew Barrymore as his romantic opposite. Anybody capable of summoning up any sort of ire over this movie clearly hasn't seen any of the Adam Sandler movies that have actually earned it, which suggests to me that a majority of the sturm and drang over this film is manufactured.


I didn't even cringe once, which I guess doesn't really sound like a ringing endorsement, but considering what I was bracing for, it meant a lot. I even laughed, more than once in fact, and at least smiled through most of it. To even talk about what it does badly feels almost like a luxury given how hard it usually is to find anything good to say about a Sandler movie. If you must know, I had a problem with the lack of even artificial complications, which the movie forgets about until literally the last five minutes, preferring a safe, tensionless lull, and the movie completely forgets to resolve the arc of one of the kids, who still talks to her dead mom and never gets the pat solution to what we're left to assume is her growing insanity. But seriously, that's it, and the fact that those are my biggest complaints, and neither of those issues detracted even slightly from the few bright spots including the always fun Terry Crews and the surprisingly charming Shaq, is really saying something.


As the third in an unintentional trilogy of Sandler/Barrymore romantic comedies, Blended is I suppose the worst, or should I say least entertaining of the three, but to rank it anywhere near the worst of Sandler's entire filmography makes no rational sense.  The closest comparison is actually the original Grown Ups, which is to say it feels much more like an excuse to give Sandler and his friends a nice vacation than a film in its own right, but at least its good natured in its blandness. In a weird way it almost feels like an inadvertent nod to Richard Linklater's Before series, with The Wedding Singer representing these two nerdy lovers as young kids, 50 First Dates representing their routine married life, and this third installment serving as the mid-life with kids banal years of the same relationship. Like it or not, we've all grown up with these two actors playing basically the same characters finding each other and falling in love, and there's something, maybe just familiarity or maybe even nostalgia, that comes along with seeing it play out again.


Sandler is naturally the easiest of the easy targets, and most of the bile regularly thrown his way is completely his own doing, but really guys, is this the hill you wanna die on? Did you not see Grown Ups 2, or Jack and Jill for that matter? Those movies aren't just bad, they're vacuums of joy seemingly designed to antagonize the audience as if birthed from the mind of a still living Andy Kaufman. This movie is SO not that! At least with That's My Boy, the film began with such a noxious concept that it would be understandable for many critics to miss the fact that it eventually grew into a funny movie. I'll take Blended over Ride Along or Identity Thief any day of the week, and both of those movies made money sucking. Except perhaps as an innocuous date movie if there's literally nothing else available, I probably wouldn't recommend paying to see Blended, but that's not the same as saying its unwatchable, just not really worth your time. That assumes you have better things to do or at least better movies to see, but if neither of those things are true, what the hell, there are worst ways to kill a few hours.

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