Zero stars (out of four)
The heinous “Blended” feels like a two-hour version of Aldous Snow’s “African Child” video in “Get Him to the Greek.” It also continues Adam Sandler’s streak of taking comedy beyond subjectivity and into objectively despicable, misogynistic cruelty threaded into family-friendly movies. He spits in your face and calls it a kiss.
As usual Sandler plays a gigantic jackass and loving father, so he can go for laughs while insulting or punching children. Still wearing his T-shirt from his job at Dick’s Sporting Goods, Jim (Sandler) takes his blind date Lauren (Drew Barrymore, embarrassingly not trying to keep a straight face) to Hooters. There, director Frank Coraci (Barrymore/Sandler’s far superior “The Wedding Singer”) makes sure to note one waitress’ rear and a gaggle of four busty beauties’ affection for Jim. What the filmmaker and writers don’t seem to care about, as a contrived situation leads to Jim and Lauren (who is divorced) both taking their kids on a trip to South Africa, is the viciousness lingering in every line.
Lauren works as a professional closet organizer for the sole purpose of inspiring jokes that suggest she’s a lesbian. Jim, who knows how to avoid a parasailing accident but not that a 15-year-old girl gets her period, calls his oldest daughter Hilary (Bella Thorne) “Larry” and pushes her toward basketball and an androgynous look so she’ll be mistaken for a boy. SPOILER ALERT: Hilary’s character exists not to address how she feels about her late mother, but so she can undergo a “She’s All That”-like transformation, a guy she likes can then instantly notice her and she can stop playing basketball (which she previously excelled at).
Years ago, Sandler was funny. In a modern Adam Sandler movie, being inconsistent and disingenuous is the norm, while people who are overweight, gay or non-gorgeous are to be mocked. In “Blended,” that also means Jim insisting on playing baseball, not cricket, in South Africa. (Imagine forcing Brazilians in Rio to play American football.) And it means non-white characters, including Terry Crews (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) as a caricature of an African performer, are only there to spew punchlines, as these families have no interest in the local culture. We don’t see Jim’s young daughter, who loves Lauren, interact with his middle daughter, who still pretends her mom is with them at all times. Instead, we see rhinos having sex. And a cameltoe joke.
Meanwhile, the constant message is that women, presented either as boobs or nags, must change themselves for men, who need do nothing more than not be horrible 100 percent of the time. And even if they are, women will forget everything Sandler’s character—a guy who has no concern for seeing a child’s head bash into a wall—does if he apologizes once. The irony, of course, is that nothing short of a public flogging would be enough to make amends for these messages.
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