I never expected to write this --- but I actually enjoyed "most" of "Blended". I am NOT a fan of Adam Sandler, or his stupid films, but when he pairs himself with Drew Barrymore, "The Wedding Singer" and "50 First Dates", he's not nearly as insufferable.


The movie begins with Lauren (Barrymore) and Jim (Sandler) on a blind date at Hooter's, of all places (we learn the significance later), where Jim is treated like royalty by the well endowed waitresses. After a truly disgusting scene in which Lauren tries to douse the fire in her mouth from a dipping sauce with a bowl of French onion soup --- yes, it's crap like this written by Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera that makes me loathe Sandler's films (but, I digress) --- Jim gets a "rescue call" and bolts from the restaurant.


At this point I'm thinking how right I am to despise Sandler and his low-class behavior. Fast forward to Africa, where both Jim and Lauren are sharing the same safari vacation with their children. How and why this comes about isn't important, but here the screenplay does improve a great deal as we are treated to Barrymore's sweet demeanor, which wins everyone over.


Even Sandler's Jim has a few rather touching and meaningful encounters with his daughters, Hilary (Bella Thorne), Espn (Emma Fuhrmann) and Lou (Alyvia Alyn Lind), and Lauren's sons, Brendan (Braxton Beckham) and Tyler (Kyle Red Silverstein). This just proves that Sandler doesn't need to rely so heavily on bathroom humor.


So --- the question is --- why does he? There are moments of that brand of would-be humor in "Blended", but not nearly as much found in the films he has penned, such as "Grown Ups" and "Grown Ups 2".


He and Barrymore display a certain charming chemistry together, which brings a distinct naturalness to their characters. They come across like old friends who really like each other and get along, which makes their romantic comedies work well. As much as I adore and appreciate Salma Hayek, I believe she is totally miscast as Sandler's wife in the aforementioned disastrous films.


"Blended" has a pleasant cast. The children all fit nicely into their roles, with Thorne and Lind as the standouts. When we first meet Hilary, or Larry, Jim's pet name for her, she's sporting a nasty red wig and no make-up, so everyone mistakes her for a boy. But when she lays eyes on fellow safari-mate, Jake (Zak Henri), and tries to act sexy and sophisticated on the basketball court, it's a hoot.


Predictably Lauren takes Hilary to the safari salon, and she comes to dinner looking like a knockout. Yes, it's a tad shmaltzy, but it's still endearing. Little Lind is absolutely precious, as one would expect, but not too cutesy. Those big blue eyes of hers are captivating --- we'll be seeing more of her.


"Blended" is certainly not the best romantic comedy you'll see this year. Watch for "They Came Together" starring Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd coming out in June. But when Sandler teams up with Barrymore, at least it's entertaining!


Opinion: Very Mild See It Now!





Stop the presses! Somebody call Ripley! Despite extremely low expectations, Adam Sandler has actually made a decent movie. It's been 10 years since Sandler last collaborated with the ageless Drew Barrymore in "50 First Dates", but now they're teamed in the new romantic comedy "Blended". While this film has neither the infectious charm nor the clever premise of "50 First Dates", it is relatively enjoyable on its own merit.


Sure, it's predictable and silly, in parts --- not a shocking revelation for a Sandler feature --- but compared to garbage like "Grown Ups" and its even worse sequel, "Blended" is a small gem. Of course, everything in life is relative, as in "my golf game sucks except compared to someone who shoots 140, then it's pretty good". That also applies to movies, so a positive comment about an Adam Sandler movie should be taken with a grain of salt.


I was ready to exit the theater after the first 15 minutes. The opening scene shows three women, from the knees on down, sitting on public toilets. I thought, here we go with the bathroom humor. Then, when one of Lauren's (Barrymore) sons sprays his babysitter with the home fire extinguisher, it was already unbearable.


But soon enough Lauren and Jim (Sandler) end up in Africa, on the same vacation in the same suite, with their kids in tow, and for most of the rest of the film, the shenanigans are more than bearable, they're entertaining. It helps to have a good supporting cast, especially Jim's oldest daughter, Hilary, played by the young beauty Bella Thorne. She is a revelation to those of us unfamiliar with her television career, for which she has received widespread acclaim.


Jim's middle daughter, Espn (yes, named for Jim's favorite sports channel, is portrayed by Emma Huhrmann) has a smaller part, but she is very effective near the end expressing her feelings about her mother, who died of cancer. But Lou, Jim's youngest girl, steals the show. She is played by the precious Alyvia Alyn Lind, all blue eyes, blond curls and a ton of personality.


Other cast standouts include Jessica Lowe as the buxom Ginger, wife to Kevin Nealon's Eddy, who are seated at the same dining table in Africa as the Jim/Lauren clan. And Terry Crews as Nickens, a native South African dancer/comedian, ever-present with his back-up singers, is a riot.


Lauren has a rather despicable ex-husband, Mark (Joel McHale) who uses any

excuse not to be with his kids, although the two boys are royal pitas (pains-in-the-ass). But even they have some redeeming moments. Jim, still missing his deceased wife, has commitment issues despite the presence of the sweet-natured, appealing Lauren. But we all know how this will work out.


"Blended" is a surprisingly poignant and emotional Sandler outing, with direction by frequent collaborator Frank Coraci. It's also a step up in class from the usual Adam Sandler fare.


Opinion: Wait for DVD