I’m starting to suspect Adam Sandler has turned his movie career into a brilliant plan to subsidize his vacations. Recently with movies like “Just Go with It,” both “Grown Ups” flicks and now “Blended,” they all feature Sandler and his buddies jetting off to some Disney-fied tourist hotspot and letting wackiness ensue.
“Blended,” like all these other movies, is expectedly lousy and with the exotic destination this time being Africa, it also gets the added bonus of being culturally offensive.
What is most notable about this movie is it features Sandler reuniting with Drew Barrymore. The two have legitimate chemistry that is charming to watch and harkens back to Sandler’s heyday with movies like “The Wedding Singer” and “50 First Dates.”
In “Blended,” they play single parents — Sandler a widower with three girls, and Barrymore a divorcee with two boys.
The movie begins as the two meet on a terrible blind date where they clearly can’t stand each other. But then fate and plot contrivances work together, forcing both families to share a vacation package at a resort in South Africa.
There are various hijinks, misadventures, and Kevin Nealon cameos that all conspire to bring Sandler, Barrymore, and their families closer together.
It’s lazy and only occasionally funny, but then critically raging against an Adam Sandler movie is as futile as raging against the tides. The sun comes up in the east, goes down in the west and no matter how bad it is, an Adam Sandler movie will make $100 million.
What is much more interesting is trying to figure out what happened to turn this energetic and edgy comedian into a dude who looks like he is struggling to stay awake in his own movies.
It all goes back to the late 90s when Sandler, at the top of his game, was able to turn big hits like “Happy Gilmore,” “The Waterboy” and “Big Daddy” into his own production company.
Happy Madison Productions became a highly insular machine where Sandler and a few close compatriots had total control over the movies they wanted to make.
Since his first Happy Madison movie, “Little Nicky” in 2000, Sandler has starred in a whopping 21 movies, but only three were outside of the Happy Madison sphere of influence. Those were Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch-Drunk Love” in 2002 (arguably Sandler’s best performance ever), the ho-hum-yawn James L. Brooks movie “Spanglish” in 2004 and as the voice of Dracula in the animated “Hotel Transylvania” in 2012. (Two other Sandler movies were co-produced under Happy Madison’s “dramatic” subsidiary Madison 23 Productions, “Reign Over Me” and “Funny People”)
If you toss out “Hotel Transylvania” because, as Chris Rock said, voice acting isn’t real work, that’s only twice in 21 movies — and a decade since “Spanglish” — Sandler has left his comfort zone.
Working with the same people doing the same thing over and over leads to creative stagnation and, from a quality standpoint, the returns have been predictably diminishing.
But looking at all this from a business standpoint, it is kind of genius. Happy Madison has found an audience, knows what they like, and knows how to get them to show up. Some make a little more, some make a little less; but Sandler’s movies consistently hit right around that $100 million mark domestically (not counting international or DVD sales) and, at that point, you are essentially printing your own money.
In that respect, “Blended” is just another high-profit widget rolling off the Happy Madison assembly line, financially fulfilling its purpose while creatively leaving Sandler a little more dead inside.
“Blended” is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and language.