Blended ** 1/4
Director: Frank Coraci
Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Bella Thorne, Terry Crews, Joel McHale, Wendi McLendon-Covey
In recent years, Adam Sandler hasn’t proved to be quite the box-office guarantee that he has been in the past. The problem is that he’s now almost 50, is much too rich and a lot less angry (the same anger that director Paul Thomas Anderson channelled so effectively in Punch-Drunk Love). Without that simmering anger that lent an edge to his comedy and the energy of youth to fuel him, Sandler’s heart doesn’t seem to be in the gross-out/silly humour that he’s best known for. So his movies don’t feel like the real thing anymore (no matter how crass that real thing may have been – at least it was genuine). I have a feeling that he’d much rather be making gentler comedies at this stage in his life but doesn’t trust his own instincts – he
doesn’t want to alienate his core audience. Unfortunately, it appears his fans have already moved on and won’t be enticed back – unless he gives them something worth coming back too. And regrettably, Blended isn’t that something. Even though it is overall mellower fare than his usual offerings, Adam Sandler’s third pairing with Drew Barrymore after 1998′s The Wedding Singer and 2004′s 50 First Dates doesn’t even meet the (admittedly middling) standards of its two predecessors.
This romantic comedy about two single parents (he’s got three girls, she has two sons) coming together after a disastrous first date (he takes her to Hooters) does have a few things going for it – Drew Barrymore’s grounded sweetness chief among them. The kids (especially the girls) are also kind of charming and Wendi McLendon-Covey is pretty good in her now patented act as the feisty-but-funny best friend. The scenes with the grown-ups bonding with the kids (both their own and the other’s) are also sweet. And the scene where Sandler teaches Barrymore’s son to hit a baseball (but with a cricket bat) and which features a cameo by Dale Steyn is actually funny. I’m sure American audiences have no idea who the South African cricketer is, and this is yet another example of Hollywood realising that there’s another market out there beyond its shores and is reaching out to it. But the positives are too few and far between. Despite Sandler and Barrymore’s obvious comfort with each other I didn’t quite buy the romance. The plot was also completely predictable and the forced comedy only occasionally drew a chuckle – a Greek chorus led by Terry Crews at a South African resort for blended families and a scene involving mating rhinos aren’t quite as funny as the scriptwriters and director Frank Coraci think them to be. This movie isn’t a disaster but it also isn’t more than a slow afternoon watch on television.
Cut to chase: Not funny enough and not romantic enough, Blended is more like Bland-ed.
Neighbours ** 1/4
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco
Ever since the Farrelly brothers introduced the world to their brand of gross-out comedy and experienced huge success with it, various film-makers have been trying to one-up each other on the comic crassness front. But their efforts have been largely met with diminishing returns. Of course, there are exceptions like The Hangover and some of Judd Apatow’s films – largely because they were either able to surprise us or they had a heart beating underneath all the flesh and vulgarity on display. Unfortunately, while Neighbours does have a message it just doesn’t bring us anything new. It strains mighty hard – just like Seth Rogen where he tries to milk his wife (Rose Byrne) – but it’s just not that funny, folks.
Rogen and Byrne play a young couple trying to come to terms with their status of being new parents when a college frat-house moves in next door to them. This results in the two of them being torn between being responsible adults or reverting to a hard-partying life which they’ve left behind only relatively recently. There’s a funny scene in which a stoned Rogen discusses Batman with an equally high Zac Efron, the pretty-boy frat president – it’s a generational thing: for Rogen Michael Keaton is the big-screen Batman while its Christian Bale for Efron (in actuality, though, Rogen is only five years older than the ex-Disney star). But soon the need of the parents to look after their daughter takes priority and that brings them in conflict with the frat boys leading to an escalating game of one-upmanship. But these schemes and plots of revenge and counter-revenge are neither particularly clever nor particularly funny – we’ve kind of seen it all before and the film’s 90 minutes feel a lot longer as a result. Rogen, director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and screen-writers Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien are all Apatow alumni and they know that they have to have a human element to their on-screen shenanigans. Here the message is that growing up and embracing adulthood and responsibility is never really easy – no matter what stage of your life. But this point appears tacked on. Zac Efron, surprisingly, is the best thing in the movie – his dim-wittedness plays at a slow-burn and it’s effective.
Cut to chase: A gross-out comedy with a message – but there’s just no joy in it.
[email protected]; khusromumtaz.wordpress.com