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May 23, 2014

There’s a long-standing rule of thumb that a critic must be honest: no matter how awful and insipid a movie is, they must say if they laughed. In that spirit, I must honestly say that I did not laugh once during the latest awful, insipid mess Adam Sandler has tried to pass off as a comedy, Blended.

The tone is set with the first two prominent product placements: Hooters and Dick’s. The first one is where Jim Friedman (Sandler) takes Lauren Reynolds (Drew Barrymore) on a terrible first date; the second is where he works. Lauren is rightly outraged that Jim spends more time looking at the game and at the waitresses — all of whom he knows by name — than at her, among a great many other boorish behaviors, but rest assured that the choice will later be spun as a positive.

Lauren is a divorcĂ©e with two boys, moody, pervy Brendan (Braxton Beckham) and hyperactive Tyler (Kyle Red Silverstein). She’s uptight and frazzled by the effort of dealing with their behavior and her jerk of an ex-husband (Joel McHale). She’s so pathologically neat and fussy that she runs her own closet-organizing service, instead of something normal like floor sales at a big-box sporting goods store.

Jim, on the other hand, was evidently the perfect husband until his wife’s death, and is still the beloved father of three girls, flawed only by not being able to offer them a female role model. To wit, only Lou (Alyvia Alyn Lind), the youngest, looks remotely girly. Fifteen-year-old Hilary (Bella Thorne) — called “Larry” and pushed into basketball by her father — is miserable in her androgyny, which is evidently supposed to be hilarious. Which leaves the middle girl, Espn (Emma Fuhrmann) — no, I’m not kidding — who has major unresolved issues about her mother’s death. These issues, of course, will be the cue that Lauren has become “good enough” for Jim, because somehow it’s Lauren in this situation that needs rehabilitation.

Introductions aside, both families end up at a resort in Sun City, South Africa, in a contrivance that makes so little sense I can’t even begin to explain it. Even more conveniently, it’s a week specifically for “blended” families, so everyone is pushing the Freidman and Reynolds clans to get close. Hijinks naturally ensue, mostly involving the PG-13 level of Sandler’s trademark puerile attempts at humor. Jim acts the male role model for Lauren’s boys, helping Tyler with his baseball swing and teaching Brendan to box. Lauren plays nice with Jim’s girls, and gives Hilary the makeover she supposedly needs to attract the boy she’s crushing on. The only remotely funny note is struck by the resort’s ever-present, and ever-annoying, resident singing group (Terry Crews, backed by the Junior Mambazo Singers).

Awful and cloying throughout, and dripping with lowbrow stereotypes, there is nothing to recommend Blended to any but the least discerning of tastes. The single thing that can be said in its favor is that, with its tissue-thin sense of conflict, the storyline is better developed than Grown Ups 2.

Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: depressingly enough, this movie manages to pass.

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