Wednesday, July 9, 2014

'Blended' is Splendid

Sandler and Barrymore bring the charm in latest dramedy.
 by Curtis Betz

Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore are the perfect combination in their latest romantic comedy Blended. More than just another vehicle for Sandler to gather his friends and make stupid jokes in front of a camera, this movie has real heart that I haven’t seen in an Adam Sandler movie since Click. Blended is a combination of date movie and family feel good flick with plenty of laughter mixed in for good measure.

Sandler’s character Jim is a widower struggling to get over his wife’s death and raise three daughters on his own. He is set up on a blind date with Lauren, played by Drew Barrymore. Lauren is a mother of two sons who struggles to make the boys’ father an active part of their lives. The blind date between Jim and Lauren is an utter disaster and they never expect to see each other again. However, under convoluted circumstances, Jim and his daughters meet up with Lauren when she and her sons go on the same holiday to Africa. During the holiday, Jim and Lauren fall in love and learn how to blend two broken families into one full of love.

Once every decade we as citizens of the world are given the incredible gift of watching Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore fall in love on screen. It all began in 1998 with The Wedding Singer; lightning struck again in 2004 with 50 First Dates and now we have the magic that is Blended. The chemistry between these two actors is nothing short of legendary. Very few duos can convince us of on-screen romance like Sandler and Barrymore. Even aside from the two headliners, this movie is overflowing with wonderful talent. Every role is filled by the absolute best actor that could portray that character. Most have agreed that Sandler has lost the comedic shine that made him such a star in movies such as Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore and I think he has also begun to realise this as he takes a back seat to his supporting cast when it comes to making the jokes. Sandler instead brings heart and warmth to this movie, and allows the other talents to bring the comedy. Barrymore is every bit of a sweetheart as she has ever been. She really sells the down-to-earth and caring nature of her character, and seamlessly blends tender moments and laughs into a beautiful performance.

Sandler usually sticks to the same guest list that he always has since he began acting, but for the first time in a long time he has abandoned the regular cameos and branched out to newer talents. Terry Crews (who is most recognisable for his Old Spice commercials) has a hilarious part as the hotel lounge singer. Basketball icon Shaquille O’Neal has a bit part as Jim’s co-worker. The entire Sandler clan has at least one small cameo in this film. All of Sandler’s children make an appearance and even his wife, Jackie, has her time on camera. The credits even roll with a cute little song performed by Sandler and his daughters. The show-stealing performance in this movie however is Alyvia Alyn Lind who plays Jim’s youngest daughter, Lou. This young girl has more talent in her tiny little body than almost anyone else in this movie. Most of the big laughs and saddest tears come from this little girl.

As a special treat to local moviegoers, the bulk of Blended is set and filmed in our own lovely South Africa. Typical of American movies, it is only referred to as Africa and the term “South Africa” is actually only uttered once in the movie. However, the majority of this film is filmed in Sun City and the Pilanesberg Game Reserve just outside of Johannesburg. Despite being mainly referred to as simply “Africa”, Blended brilliantly showcases the beauty of our wonderful country and even has a cameo by South African fast bowler Dale Steyn. South Africa has been steadily growing in popularity as a filming location for American film companies (recently hosting Marvel studios for The Avengers: Age of Ultron), but this is the first film to openly acknowledge that this is in fact where the story takes place, even if it is only in passing. As an American who moved to South Africa and fell in love, I am glad that the world at large is given the opportunity to see why I decided to stay here. The rich cultures, wonderful people and gorgeous scenery are unlike anything else in the world and I can’t wait to see if other studios will follow the lead of Blended and help to usher South Africa into the mainstream.

Aside from being a romantic comedy, this movie’s main focus is a challenge that many modern families face and that is how to blend two families into one. I was raised in a mixed family (my sister and I from my mother’s first marriage being mixed with two brothers from my step-father’s first marriage and another brother from my mom and step-dad) and I know how much of a challenge it can be. There is the fight between the parents of “you don’t get to treat my kid that way” and the transition of the children to accept the new parent as mom or dad. It takes a lot of time and a lot of love to get over those challenges and become a real family. Rarely do movies address this common problem and Blended tackles the issue head on with sincerity. Jim and Lauren both have kids from previous marriages and to make the relationship work the children have to be a part of it. A relationship is hard enough with just two people who are adult enough to make reasonable decisions. Add in children who are often entirely driven by emotion and not a lot of reason and the difficulty level rises a hundred fold. Blended doesn’t smooth over this important challenge as most movies would, but makes it just as much a part of the story line as the romance of Jim and Lauren.

Overall, Blended is a wonderful movie. I enjoyed it thoroughly and give it a full 5 out of 5 stars. Rarely do I come away from a movie with nothing to complain about and this is one of those few movies that I saw as perfect. Aside from not giving South Africa the credit it deserved as the backdrop to this story, Blended did everything right. Brilliant performances by everyone involved, a touching storyline, and a beautiful country to watch it all happen in. If you only have one night to take out your significant other or even your entire family, I would take the opportunity to “blend” this movie into your night.