Swap the Pacific Princess cruise ship from “The Love Boat” for a luxurious South African resort, add threepeat sweethearts Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler and you get “Blended.”
Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore.
Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language.
The actors who first clicked in “The Wedding Singer” and then went on “50 First Dates” play Lauren, a divorced mother of sons 13 and 9 years old, and Jim, a widowed father of three girls ages 4 to 15.
They have the opposite of a meet-cute. Their first date, at a Hooter’s restaurant, is disastrous as he drinks her beer, trains his eyes on the TV (or waitresses) instead of his companion and fakes an emergency to escape — before she can do the same.
Serendipity or, perhaps, fate keeps bringing them together until they unwittingly find themselves splitting a spring break trip to an African safari resort that Jim’s boss planned with Lauren’s business partner, Jen (Wendi McLendon-Covey, a brief but bright spot).
Turns out they’re vacationing during a special Blended Family Week and they have to share a spacious suite along with dinners and activities such as ostrich riding, parasailing and looking for elephants, rhinos and giraffes in the wild.
But as Shakespeare and rom-coms have taught us, the course of true love never did run smooth and “Blended” hits some roadblocks, prolonging its runtime to a bloated 117 minutes.
“Blended” capitalizes on the obvious chemistry of its stars — more amiable and natural than sizzling — but its other strength is in how Ms. Barrymore sweetly interacts with Jim’s girls, especially Alyvia Alyn Lind as the youngest. Lauren also helps the eldest get out of the athletic wear Jim buys for all of his daughters at the sporting goods chain where he works.
The PG-13 movie has some crude jokes about feminine hygiene products and a resort lovebird whose innocent jiggling produces ogling, along with Terry Crews’ energetic gyrations and pec popping as the leader of a nine-man harmony group inside and outside the resort.
Some “funny” moments are cringe worthy, as when a boy melts down on the baseball field or Jim, not understanding his daughter’s flirtatious basketball moves in front of a boy, yells out, “If it’s the bra, just take it off. You don’t need it anyway.” Ouch!
Maybe it’s a testament to how well filmmakers can cheat for outer space or Godzilla’s stomping grounds or just about anyplace, but I wondered if the safari was real or some variation of Busch Gardens. Turns out filming took place at the Palace of the Lost City resort in Sun City, South Africa, and Pilanesberg Game Reserve west of Pretoria.
In addition to Ms. Barrymore and Mr. Sandler, the cast includes Joel McHale as Lauren’s former husband; Kevin Nealon and Jessica Lowe as fellow vacationers; and Shaquille O’Neal as one of Jim’s co-workers whose on-screen time is mercilessly brief (acting is not his forte).
“Blended,” directed by Frank Coraci who made “The Wedding Singer,” underscores the notion that the kids always have to come first for parents. In 1968, Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda defined blended with “Yours, Mine and Ours” and Doris Day and Brian Keith reminded us, “With Six, You Get Eggroll.”
Now, the third Sandler-Barrymore collaboration makes for a bumpier, sometimes coarser comedy although its heart and matchmaking are in the right place.
Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.