Friday, 6 June 2014

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Blended

Directed by: Frank Coraci

Produced by: Adam Sandler
Jack Giarraputo
Mike Karz

Screenplay by: Clare Sera
Ivan Menchell

Starring: Adam Sandler
Drew Barrymore

Music by: Rupert Gregson-Williams

Cinematography by: Julio Macat

Editing by: Tom Costain

Studio(s): Happy Madison 
Gulfstream Pictures
Karz Entertainment

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Release date(s): May 23, 2014 (United States and United Kingdom)

Running time: 117 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $40 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $33, 840, 706

I've got myself slightly ahead for a change vis a vis the moviegoing side of things and not only do I have this up for review, but there will be one for X-Men: Days Of Future Past up in the next few days. I plan on seeing at least one more before I go over to work at Download Festival on Wednesday, but I'm not making any guarantees as I only yesterday got booked in for twelve-hour shift on Saturday (the joys of zero-hours contracting and the short notice that comes with it!), which also means I can't go to tomorrow's Anti-Racisim rally at Belfast City Hall, which I'd urge anyone in the Belfast area to attend. Anywho, for all the latest and greatest regarding the movies, along with the occasional gripe about work, politics and what have you, keep your eyes posted!

And now, today's movie up for review is Blended, the latest movie from Adam Sandler's production company Happy Madison, starring himself and Drew Barrymore in their third collaborative effort together in rom-coms after The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates. For those of you who don't follow this blog regularly, I'll fill you in on a bit of context between me and Monsieur Sandler. While I was a fan of his work in the nineties like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore and Big Daddy, he done a load of rubbish and then came to Funny People, Judd Apatow's two-and-a-half hour comedic drama in which Sandler seemed to be riffing himself, saying "screw that, I'm done with all the nonsense." After that film, which don't forget is now five years ago, in numerous capacities he has been a part of some of the worst movies of the past half-decade. Indeed, he is credited as writer, producer and lead actor on Jack & Jill and Grown Ups 2, both of which have led to his not insignificant involvement in the dubiously honoured Ed Wood Worst Film Of The Year award for the past two successive years (2012 and 2013) from yours truly. With Blended coming out and having read some of the reviews in the press for this film, I was bracing myself for more of the same negativity, to the point where I was putting my foot down and saying "if Adam Sandler stinks up again, he's going in the Hall of Shame." Over seven years, only three inductees have made it there (Michael Bay and Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer), but it has gotten to the point with Sandler where I am fed up of seeing this guy who is and can be funny choose to put out such baloney. Right well, there's the context. A bit long-winded, yes, but that's how strongly I feel about this. Plot synopsis; single parents Jim Friedman (Adam Sandler) and Lauren Reynolds (Drew Barrymore) have a terrible blind date. Jim's boss Dick (Dan Patrick), who is dating Lauren's work colleague Jen (Wendi McClendon-Covey), are planning a trip to Africa, but she has anxieties about going on holiday with his children, so, with their trip cancelled, Jim and Lauren, unbeknownst of the other's activities, wrangle their way into heading to Africa in the place of their respective contacts, so the two families (Jim's three girls and Lauren's two boys) are thrown together, hilarity ensues and maybe there is a mutual attraction growing between the parents. Shall we see?

As I mentioned in the context, this has a lot riding on it given my chequered history with Adam Sandler productions, but I have to say in all fairness this was not by any means the absolute stinker I was expected. In fact, I think I'd have to go so for as to say it was a decent film, and I'll explain to you why I think it was. The first thing that is worthy to note about the film is the chemistry between Sandler and Drew Barrymore. They are exactly the right age to play their parts, and seem to use their own experience as parents to bring some sense of legitimacy to the part. Not only is there a sense of sincerity to the characters that you don't often find in Sandler's films, but they also do a fine job of engaging in dialogues over the humorous trials and tribulations that come with parenting. While I wouldn't say this is by any means an outrageously funny film, I did find myself chuckling on a number of occasions and genuinely charmed by the earnestness of the story. There is none of the mean-spirited nonsense that we're so used to that usually ends up going back on itself into hypocritically saying "there's more to life than fat jokes." It's a sweetly-toned movie that actually seems to try and tell a story about people of a certain age, parents and the things that happen over the course of a lifetime (the characters actually have a good level of density in terms of their backgrounds). As is to be expected with a film shot in Africa, it is a movie that looks the part. Some of that is down to the cinematographer by Julio Macat no doubt, but I think also the scenery and flora and fauna of the location in Sun City has a lot to with that. It's a welcome change to have a Sandler movie displaced into another country, as opposed to the 'misfits of suburbia' that is normally employed. The location shooting looks goods, but we also get the sense that they're going to some degree to make an effort to structure these comic set-pieces, and to be frank they are way more entertaining than you might expect them to be. Conclusively, it's the second-best Adam Sandler movie of the past five years (falling short of the grossly overlooked That's My Boy), but I suppose that isn't saying much.

Now, I did find a number of things to enjoy about Blended, most of all being perhaps that there were things at all to enjoy in an Adam Sandler movie of late. However, there are a number of things which deny Blended from being up there as a great or even a good movie. For starters, while I think that the script here is a lot better in terms of it's respect for characters and people as a whole, the plot still moves in ways which are wholly predictable and to be expected. There isn't really altogether much of a sense of dramatic tension, even if we care for the characters. Recently, I've been watching through Krzysztof Kieslowski's Dekalog, and for every episode, the key to the dramatic tension seems to be that Kieslowski and co-writer Krzysztof Piesiewicz withdraw part of the plot from the audience, so that there is a sense of a mystery to be uncovered and that we have a lack of knowledge of the bigger picture, getting it piece by piece as it goes along. Blended, as with most films, seem to make their audiences know too much, merely confirming their expectations. Incidentally, lots of people are getting cross about the depiction of Africans, but I think to get angry about something like this is to give it more credit than it deserves. It's not actively xenophobic or racist (unlike a certain Pastor and First Minster here in Northern Ireland!), but rather just a stupid inclusion. Terry Crews can do as many pec dances and pelvic thrusts as he pleases, it's still hard to get out of my head the moronic qualities of a hotel manager who in the course of dangerous driving on a quad bike causes an elderly woman to crash into a tree, dismissing it with a shrug of his shoulders going "my bad," and believe me, I make that sound funnier than it is! Also, what Adam Sandler movie couldn't be without the Aural-Nauseator General himself, Rupert Gregson-Williams. I founded the EHO Award for Worst Film Score/Soundtrack two years ago, and he has won it both successive years for the previously mentioned Jack & Jill and Grown Ups 2. Even he gets off easy here, but his work's still bland as all hell.

I'm sure that this review and it's relative degree of positivity comes as a surprise to some of you. Indeed, the movie came as something of a surprise to me. The last film I reviewed was A Million Ways To Die In The West, and while I would say that that movie tried to do something different, Blended was more consistently entertaining and therefore deserves a better rating. Don't get me wrong, it ain't chopped liver, as they say (I say as they say because for someone who doesn't eat meat it'd be rich to use the analogy as though I know what I'm talking about). It's highly predictable and murder-by-numbers, with plenty of stupid jokes and a bland score from Rupert-Gregson Williams. However, there is strong chemistry between Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore (who I really wish was in more movies these days), who do a fine job at playing their characters, who on the written page are also more than just cyphers, exploring the trials and tribulations that come with parenting. Also, the displacement to Africa from the suburbia we're used to with these films is a welcome change. In conclusion, Blended is by no means the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it's a decent enough, sincere comedy that's worth taking a chance on.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.7/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Hungry (for food)

P.S. My respect goes out to the memory of the courage of those who seventy years ago today on June 6th, 1944 were involved in the Normandy landings. Your sacrifice is duly noted.

P.P.S. How did Blended cost $40 million and Grown Ups 2 cost $80 million? Much of this is set in a fancy resort/hotel in South Africa and Grown Ups seems to be mostly shot in Adam Sandler's house!

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