A romance ripped from the pages of Deuteronomy, Frank Coraci’s Blended posits that the best reason for a woman with sons and a man with daughters to get married is that they can take care of each other’s kids. Quel pragmatisme! In the world of this sitcom love story, men are from Mars and women should be from a defiled menstrual tent far enough away that Adam Sandler won’t have to hear them talk about tampons. (To be fair, in Blended even an elderly pharmacy clerk is eager to tell Sandler about the size of her vagina.)
Sandler and Drew Barrymore play single parents with zero dating experience whose first blind date is, naturally, a disaster. Their characters married before college graduation, managed to spawn five kids between them, and yet, despite spending almost two decades with their former spouses (one dead, one a dick), have never learned anything about the opposite sex. Hell, they could have learned everything they needed to know about each other by watching another romantic comedy as bad as this: He’s the schlub who mans a sports store with Shaq; she’s the pearl-clenching workaholic who co-owns a closet-organizing company.
Will she school him on responsibility? Will he teach her to loosen up? Duh. Will Blended take two hours and a trip to Africa to get there while implanting uncomfortable messages like “girls aren’t pretty without long hair”? Alas, yes.
The only thing exceptional about this third-time pairing of Sandler and Barrymore is how tone-deaf it is about romance. In fact, it hardly seems to believe in romance in at all — the couple’s big gooey speech is all about how their kids come first. It’s also tone deaf about Sandler’s increasingly strained appeal. The fun of his early career was watching his goons earn our love. Here, he’s more oafish than ever, a porn obsessive who acts like Rain Man and accuses Barrymore of being a lesbian for hugging a female friend (the too-good-for-this-but-at-least-she’s-working Wendi McLendon-Covey); he doesn’t earn our love, he demands it.
As for the ever-empathetic Barrymore, she’s too sweet to play shrill. Instead of the blossoming tenderness of The Wedding Singer (which Coraci also directed), we now have a couple united by their fear of sexuality: When Barrymore sees a stripper pole, she shrieks, and the first time Sandler sees his 15-year-old daughter (Bella Thorne) in a dress, his mind blasts “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.”
Luckily or unluckily for them, the back flips of the script kick them and their broods to an unnamed country in Africa (what, every nation was too scared to take credit?) where the locals are all incompetent and salivating over Western mating habits. Barrymore and Sandler can’t even consider a kiss without resort singer Terry Crews creeping behind them and crooning about it. If only Crews could drop the mic, grab Shaq, and go make their own movie.