By Mark Saldana

Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

There must be something about Drew Barrymore that brings out the best in Adam Sandler. Well, in the case of Blended, she probably didn’t bring out his best, but helped him make a much needed improvement since his last handful of mostly dreadful comedies. Barrymore and Sandler have shared a lovely onscreen chemistry in their previous films The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates and actually continue to gel in their latest pairing. Still, their ability to amiably portray a romantic couple doesn’t exactly elevate Sandler’s new film to greatness, but it does salvage the movie a bit and makes it watchable.

Sandler stars as Jim Friedman, a single dad struggling to get back into dating. Jim gets off to an awkwardly rocky start on a blind date with single mother Lauren Reynolds (Drew Barrymore).  Jim and Lauren agree not to date anymore, but fate deals them a wild card when they end up on the same vacation in South Africa with their kids in tow. Despite their horrendous first date, Jim and Lauren eventually take a liking to each other while Lauren’s sons begin to appreciate having a solid and caring father figure around and Jim’s daughters begin to enjoy the benefits of having a motherly influence in their lives.

It may sound like my synopsis reveals too much, but in all honesty the whole story is quite transparent and obvious.  Mostly everything in the film plays out predictably.  As expected with most of Sandlers movies, Blended features a mix of colorful, cartoonish and absurd characters. Thankfully, the filmmakers never go too overboard with this. The comedy is often silly, but it actually does have some fun moments. Director Frank Coraci (The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy) and writers Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera have made a tolerable and sometimes likable comedy that actually offers a ray of hope that Sandler’s comedic career isn’t completely finished. The comedy doesn’t always work, but enough does to make the movie moderately enjoyable. The story and main characters do have heart, which is refreshing to see considering some of the characters in Adam Sandlers recent movies (Grown Ups 2, That’s My Boy)

In addition to Sandler and Barrymore, who have proven that they should continue to collaborate more often, the movie offers funny performances by Kevin Nealon, Terry Crews, and Wendi McLendon-Covey.  McLendon-Covey, who shines in Bridesmaids, is way underused in Blended.  In her limited screen time in the film, she delivers a hilarious performance. As Jim and Lauren’s kids, Bella Thorne, Emma Fuhrmann, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Kyle Red Silverstein, and Braxton Beckham offer sweet, adorable and comical performances. Whoever tells Shaquille O’Neal he can act needs to stop enabling him! He is definitely the worst actor in this movie and has horrific comic timing. His attempts at comedy miss like the bricks he used to shoot from the free throw line in his basketball career.

Thankfully, Shaq’s screen time is limited, otherwise this review would be less favorable. Though it isn’t a stellar, rave review, I can breathe a sigh of relief that the entire movie was mostly painless and that Sandler and Barrymore can still offer a somewhat endearing comedy.  I wouldn’t recommend spending top dollar to see this movie on the big screen, but it would make for a decent rental or matinee.  The movie does earn its PG-13 rating, so parents should be warned that this family-themed film does have material and content of a racy and sexual nature. So I wouldn’t recommend bringing the kids who haven’t received an education in such matters.

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