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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Blended movie review: smug addiction

Blended red light

Adam Sandler goes to Africa, via the tampon aisle, and assumes you’ll agree with him that racism and sexism are family values worth celebrating.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): I hate Adam Sandler and everything he stands for

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Attempting to determine the very worst thing about the oeuvre of Adam Sandler is akin to trying to decide which sort of cancer is the most horrible: even to finally settle on one isn’t to say that all the rest aren’t blights on humanity. But I think I may now have it.

It’s the smugness. The Sandler smug reaches a new nadir of appalling with Blended. For everything is presented with the same self-satisfied confidence that the audience is entirely onboard with the indisputable fact of every assumption with which the film presents us. “Parents should always be there for their kids” is thrown out here as existing on the same level of “clearly obvious truth” as “lesbians are hilarious,” “teenaged girls who aren’t Barbie dolls will constantly be mistaken for boys, and this is appropriate and hilarious,” “horrible bratty children who behave like violent felons are hilarious,” and “black people are wonderfully kooky minstrel entertainers, and hence hilarious.”

When I say that Blended is “Adam Sandler goes to Africa, via the tampon aisle,” I am being factually descriptive of this physically repulsive excuse for a movie. After an absurdly long setup that involves single dad Jim (Sandler: Grown Ups 2, That’s My Boy) and single mom Lauren (Drew Barrymore: Big Miracle, Everybody’s Fine) having a terrible blind date and then later meeting ugly — the opposite of the meet-cute — in the feminine hygiene section of a drugstore, they find themselves, along with their collective five kids, on a family holiday in South Africa. Don’t ask how it could possibly happen that two people who despise each other — and rightly so; they’re awful, and so is almost everyone else in this movie — can end up being surprised to discover that they are not only in the same far-distant foreign country, not only in the same resort hotel, but also forced to share a suite and every meal together. Even screenwriters Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera don’t seem to know how this could reasonably happen, and hope that we won’t notice — or won’t care — how they elide right over even the most major of plausibility issues.

The African stuff that makes up the too-chunky center of the movie was shot at the Sun City resort in South Africa, which was created as a luxury fantasy retreat for rich whites during the apartheid era. It’s like Disney World and Las Vegas wrapped up together, and it looks about as authentic as Epcot Center. If it didn’t already exist, it would have had to be invented for this movie, which appears to presume that “Africa” isn’t an enormous continent of varied cultures, but an invented exotic backdrop in which romance between visiting white Westerners will naturally blossom.

Oh, haven’t I mentioned? We are intended, from the very beginning, to see Jim and Lauren as perfect for each other and destined to be together. And even while your skin is crawling when they are “forced” to participate in a couples’ massage session, the movie is trying to force you to see them as adorable together. We are offered no evidence for the inevitability of their impending couplehood; we are presumed, perhaps, to have brought over some sort of good feeling from Sandler and Barrymore’s previous outings together, in The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates. (I’ve seen neither movie, and can’t imagine I’d have found them appealing there either.)

That’s not even the best example of the can’t-be-bothered laziness of Blended. Sandler’s typical reflexive cruelty is a given — making fun of children really is low, but not unexpected. But there’s also random grandma abuse. There is no “joke” that won’t be rerun a dozen times, beaten until it’s dead, and then run over by a steamroller, just in case you missed it the first hundred times. There’s a take right into the camera — by one of those “funny” minstrel servant types — who shares the wisdom that “you won’t see that in New Jersey” after a sight that is considered to be comically shocking. There is some blatant product placement that is not only blatant product placement but also structured as an attempt at rehabilitation for that brand, which does not have the greatest of reputations. And of course, there is the stuff like a moment meant to be charming and sweet (and might be, in another context) that is interrupted by the sound of Sandler urinating nearby. We don’t even have to guess that Sandler — and by extension his presumed audience — is terrified of actual human emotion, because Jim states flat out that this is the case.

Wait! Maybe that’s the worst thing about Sandler movies: He cannot bear to let any moment onscreen not be about him and his smugness and his childish idiocy, even if it means he literally has to piss his way into a scene.

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Blended (2014)
US/Can release: May 23 2014
UK/Ire release: May 23 2014

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated AS (contains Adam Sandler)
MPAA: rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate sex references, moderate bad language, rude gestures)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    Oh, man. I barely made it through the trailer for this. Respect.

    “Why should we be together? I’m played by the highest-paid actor in this thing, and you’re played by the highest-paid actress. It’s destiny!”

  • Matt Clayton

    Seems like the trailer aptly describes this movie: repulsive.

  • It’s easy to put down the movies of Adam Sandler, and for good reason. They tend to be childish and immature, often vulgar. But “Blended” is a step away from the typical Sandler film. It’s actually charming, has a decent plot, and while there may still be some offensive moments (it is an Adam Sandler film, after all), they’re kept to a minimum. Is it Noel Coward? No. But it’s a fine movie to take the tweens and teens to, and, in my opinion, this makes me wonder: “hey, maybe Adam Sandler films are growing up.”

    Allow me to state: I have seen the film. And I enjoyed it MUCH more than I expected to. Allow me to further state: It’s easy for Maryann Johanson to put down this flick…I even understand why, but I also think she’s being a little unfair. If you’re going into an Adam Sandler film expecting filet mignon rather than fish and chips, you cannot possibly offer a fair critique. It’s the reason, Maryann, that Stateside, In ‘N Out Burger gets reviews as good as some of the best restaurants in the country. It’s not that it compares with Thomas Keller, it’s that it’s really good for fast food. And so, for a film aimed at a younger (or at least more immature) audience, “Blended” deserves to be lauded. It’s fun, charming, and a nice family night out.

  • I’ve had In ‘N Out burgers. They’re delicious. It’s a slur on In ‘N Out to liken them to Adam Sandler movies.

    I understand the difference between filet mignon and fish and chips. I also understand the difference between fish and chips where the fish is wonderfully flaky and the batter isn’t mushy and the chips are just the right amount of crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and fish and chips that is disgusting shit that sits like a lump in your stomach.

    So, I’m wondering, which parts of this film did you find charming and appropriate for tweens and teens? The idea that teenaged girls must be sexy to be acceptable? The idea that black people are comical clowns? Or was it something else?

  • David_Conner

    “…but also forced to share a suite and every meal together. Even
    screenwriters Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera don’t seem to know how this
    could reasonably happen, and hope that we won’t notice — or won’t care — how they elide right over even the most major of plausibility issues.”

    This is the sort of thing I find maddening, because it’s so easily addressed. “Oh, I assumed you knew, the annual meeting of the International Order of Loyal Water Buffalo is this week – every hotel room within 500 miles is booked!”

    And as a comedy bonus, you can work in dumb little gags involving conventioners wearing funny hats. And I came up with this in five minutes. Granted, it’s still kinda stupid, but unlike the screenwriters, I’m not being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to come up with ideas for Adam Sandler movies.

  • It’s actually worse than this. They both ended up buying part of a single large package deal for two adults and five kids off of another character, and even if they didn’t learn about the other people who’d bought into the deal from the beginning, they would have been on the same plane, and likely seated next to each other. There is almost literally no way they could not discover their predicament until they are shown their suite at the hotel.

  • I hated this movie with every fibre of my body. It’s the most offensive piece of trash I’ve had the misfortune of sitting through in several years. The film’s message is basically that a family is only made whole by the presence of both a mother and father, even if they’re completely unsuited to one another. Maleficent, which I had the pleasure of seeing this morning, feels like a liberal comeback to this.

  • cinderkeys

    I’d liked Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in The Wedding Singer (though I avoid most Sandler movies like the plague), so I thought I’d keep my eyes open for reviews. Looks like I needn’t bother with this one. Thanks for seeing it so I didn’t have to.

    Out of morbid curiosity, what’s an example of “black people are wonderfully kooky minstrel entertainers”? Stupidity in an Adam Sandler movie doesn’t surprise me; racism surprises me a little.

  • Tonio Kruger

    It would be a lot more interesting if said convention was being held by the Friends of Italian Opera. :)

  • Terry Crews plays the singer in a sort of Greek chorus of guys who follow the characters around offering stupid, obvious commentary on the action. There’s a maitre d’ who’s allegedly hilarious for mispronouncing everyone’s names. There isn’t a black face on camera that even approaches human — they’re all cartoonish.

  • Hubert J. Simpson

    MaryAnn proves, yet again, that if you want to enjoy an Adam Sandler release, you must skip the movie and go read the scathing reviews instead.

  • Rod Ribeiro

    I have to satisfy my curiosity, MaryAnn: what brand would want (and actually pay what I have to assume is a considerable sum) to be associated with Adam Sandler??

  • LaSargenta

    I’ve been wondering if it refers to GM and airbags.

  • It’s the casual restaurant dining chain whose name calls to mind both a particular bird and a juvenile synonym for women’s breasts, notorious for its crappy food and scantily clad waitresses. I’m loathe to name it cuz I don’t want to give them the teensiest bit of reward for their product placement.

  • Rod Ribeiro

    Ugh. Crappiest meal I ever had (soooo greasy) meets creator of crappiest movie I ever saw (the horrible Big Daddy). Yikes. They deserve each other.

  • Beowulf

    It rhymes with “cooters.” When I saw a still showing Barrymore vomiting onion soup, I questioned my desire to partake of such adult entertainment.
    Two things: the movie bombed this past weekend in the U.S. (does anyone overseas go to Sandler’s films?) and there was backlash to his acknowledgment (Jimmy Kimmel) that he chooses his movies based on their vacation value for he, his friends, and his family.

  • RogerBW

    Grown Ups 2 grossed 54.1% domestic; That’s My Boy, 64.0%; Jack and Jill, 49.5%. So the answer to your question is, sadly, “yes”.
    (Numbers from boxofficemojo.com)

  • Dawng

    I saw it last night and thought it was brill! So funny :)

  • Please share with us what you found brill and funny.

  • michma

    I think it was great and you are just a cruel critic get a life you shouldnt be paid to critic someone else. It was a really funny family comedy i laughed from the start to the end

  • michma

    I really think that MaryAnn should really do a movie if shes such an expert in criticizing all the movies. Im a little offended

  • RogerBW

    Why does it offend you that someone dislikes something that you like?

  • What was great about it? What was really funny? In what way is it suitable for families?

    I would genuinely like to know.

  • michma

    It does not offend me that they dont like it it offends me that they talk trash about a movie that i bet they haven’t seen and most of all thats what actors are paid for to steal the light and do ironic comments. I think people think too much of a movie and do not enjoy it thats it and if you have a problem wihh me saying what i strongly believed then do me a favor and dont read my critics

  • michma

    I have nothing else to say to you. You are negative and full of hatred

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I’m not going to read you just for your questionable relationship with basic grammar and punctuation. Your pedestrian use of the “why don’t you make a movie” gambit is just icing on the poop cake that is your contribution here.

  • michma

    Thankyou for not reading. nobody was talking to you in the first place

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Thank you for not reading. Nobody was talking to you in the first place.

    For crying out loud, even if English isn’t your first language, this is unacceptably bad.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    So, some irony here.

  • So, you are unable to offer even the slightest defense of the movie. Noted.

    Thanks for stopping by, Mr. Sandler.

  • hari

    Hey don’t believe the bad critics.Bad reviews will miss lead you.Its fun laughable comedy plus good romance as in families and not like in movies these days.Fun feel good film.One of adam sandlers best. Even better than 50 first dates. And if you want to read real reviews go to films IMDB page where people who really watched has commented about it.

  • Are you suggesting that I didn’t actually see the film?

    Can you explain what you found “fun” and “laughable,” and where the “good romance” is in the film? Thanks.

  • hari

    Hey Mary, sorry if that offended you. But I really thought so, cause review showed much a pre judged opinion with inspiration from rotten tomatoes. I just wanted to point out the fact that the reviews coming about the movie as of now in the IMDB board are so positive and points out real fact about the film and people seems to enjoying it.

  • Danielm80

    I’m glad you enjoyed the film. It’s obviously not a movie for everyone, but that’s why there are so many different critics on Rotten Tomatoes. People can get a sense of which reviewers they trust and read those reviews.

    If you want to convince people that they’ll enjoy this movie, you might try quoting some of the funnier lines of dialogue, or describing some of the scenes you thought were touching and romantic. That would probably be a more compelling argument than a vague suggestion that the movie is “fun” and “laughable.”

  • I have no idea how to parse your comment. If by this:

    review showed much a pre judged opinion with inspiration from rotten tomatoes

    you’re implying that I let my fellow critics influence my review, you’re gonna have to try harder. Anyone can see my review was one of the *first* posted at RT.

    Your inability to note even a single aspect of the film that you found fun, laughable (which means something different than you seem to think it means, but anyway), or romantic is noted. I wonder if *you* have even seen the film…

  • Tonio Kruger

    I had no idea that “mislead” was that hard a word to spell.

    And ditto to Mary Ann’s comments about the word “laughable.” It really doesn’t mean what you think it means and it is rarely used as a compliment — even when referring to comedies.

  • hari

    Hi Mary Ann,(sorry I got your name wrong the first time and also the spelling), After all It was just an opinion same like yours.

    I meant fun and laughable in way like in being a fun person to be around or something of that sorts. People don’t just become just fun person around by just quoting funny dialogues or gestures alone, it a just a feeling others get when we are with them.So that is what I meant when I said the whole film is fun ride to enjoy.

    I think there are comedies which we pretend to laugh but not really feels it or their are ones we cannot stop ourself from laughing(which always falls into laughable kind).Ability to make someone laugh needs real talent and is usually complimented.

  • Danielm80

    Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore might be fun to hang out with, and for you, their personal charm may be enough. Other people require things like a well-written script and skillful direction. Here’s Roger Ebert quoting Gene Siskel:

    When he saw a movie he hated, he liked to suggest that filmmakers ask themselves this question: “Is my film more interesting than a documentary of the same actors having lunch together?”

  • After all It was just an opinion same like yours.

    Mine is backed up with examples from the movie illustrating why I feel the way I do about it. You STILL have yet to do the same.

  • Bluejay

    If you give an opinion but don’t back it up with any examples at all, no one has any reason to take you seriously. You’ll still have a right to that opinion, but don’t expect to convince anyone else.


    i hate this reviewer. I like the traditional values portrayed in the film, and its portrayal of Africans is quite accurate. Let’s not gloss over that Africa is for the most part, inhabited by savages. And the way Adam treats his kids is great! And for the record, Im black by the way


    Black people ARE comical clowns (and Im black by the way). And girls should be sexy. Nothing wrong with any of this.


    I hate liberals, and no family is complete without a male and female presence. This is 100% true. I’m completely against anything but 1 dad, 1 mom families.


    Exactly. She’s too “intellectual” and “liberal” to enjoy a film like this.


    Hooters is an awesome place!


    Agreed. It was a Funny, feel-good story. Thats why i like it. What else does she want?


    I agree, Hari

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