“Blended” reunites “cinematic soul mates” Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Of course, this is a romantic comedy, so even though they hate one another in the first couple of reels, they end up thrown together on an exotic vacation to Africa. From the first time they mention the journey you know it is just a matter of time until they put their acrimonious feelings aside and someone says, “It’s great we came on this trip.”
So how do Sandler and Co. spice up a predictable story? Easy, they add a dash of “The Brady Bunch,” some beautiful scenery and an all monkey show band.
Sandler is Jim, a widower with three girls (Bella Thorne, Emma Fuhrmann and Alyvia Alyn Lind) who manages a sporting goods store when he’s not missing his late wife. He’s a guy’s guy who named one of his daughters after his favorite network, ESPN.
Barrymore is Lauren, a single mom with two rambunctious boys (Braxton Beckham and Kyle Red Silverstein) who miss their deadbeat dad (Joel McHale). She’s the buttoned-down owner of a closet reorganization company called Closet Queens.
A blind date brings them together but is so disastrous it almost keeps them apart forever. That is until circumstances conspire—it’s too “meet cute” to detail here—to place them both at a ritzy African resort for a Blended Family retreat.
“Is this a sick dream?” Jim says when he first sees Lauren. “What is happening here?”
“We’re here for the zero romance package,” she informs anyone who’ll listen.
Feelings of disgust and hate between the two melt away as their kids do cute things and they learn not to rely on first impressions.
“Blended” is one of Sandler’s sweet family comedies. Well, it’s as sweet as a comedy with Tampax gags can be, but it is a step up from the gross out tone of “Jack and Jill” and “That’s My Boy.”
A small step up, but a step nonetheless.
It’s a heartfelt dose of humor with slightly less vulgarity than Sandler’s recent movies. Add in a few wide-eyed kids with mommy and daddy issues and you have a slightly off-kilter version of “With Six You Get Egg Roll” filtered through Sandler’s juvenile sensibility. He’s a bigger kid than the children in the film and never met a bathroom joke he didn’t like, but he has good chemistry with Barrymore and “Wedding Singer” fans—I’m still trying to expel “50 First Dates” out of my memory—will enjoy seeing them reunited.
The usual Sandler crowed also appears. Shaquille O’Neal brings some awkward charm to lines like, “When she gets flappin’, things happen,” and Kevin Nealon does some enjoyable double-speak, but the scene stealer here is Terry Crews as the leader of a singing group who acts as the Greek Chorus at the resort. His performance lends new meaning to the term over-the-top, but his brand of unbridled silliness is an antidote to the sentimentality the movie occasionally finds itself moving toward.
Sandler has been hit-and-miss lately—mostly missing with big laugh-free comedies—but the goodwill he and Barrymore bring to “Blended” puts it a notch above his recent work. Although much of the humor is Sandler boilerplate stuff but a musical montage when Sandler realizes his daughter isn’t just a tomboy anymore is funny and worth a look.
Here’s the best way to gauge your potential enjoyment of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.” Imagine a scene in a boat. Then imagine a panicked voice saying, “There’s a leak in the boat!”
Cut to… a leek, with eyes and a mouth, screaming, “No-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!”
If that kind of grocery gag makes you giggle then this animated follow-up to the fanciful 2009 Anna Faris, Bill Hader hit may be for you.
Me, I laughed both times they used that joke in the movie.
The new film picks up where the last one left off. The Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator—FLDSMDFR for short—has left the planet covered in food. When scientific superstar and Thinkquanaut Chester V (Will Forte)—a bizarre mix of the Steves, Jobs and Hawking—offers to clean up the mess Flint Lockwood’s (Hader) machine made and give the inventor a job at the LIVE Corp—the “coolest and hippest company in the world”—it appears everything may work out for the best.
Before you can say, “Clean up in aisle nine,” however, things take a strange turn when Flint and friends—meteorologist Sam Sparks (Faris), policeman Earl (Terry Crews), Steve (Neil Patrick Harris) and Manny (Benjamin Bratt)—visit their former island home to find it overrun with food creatures. Foodimals like watermelophants, shrimpanzees, double bacon cheespiders, the Tacodile Supreme and Barry, the world’s cutest strawberry, have created their own ecosystem. Think of it as a delicious Island of Doctor Moreau, or a foodie’s “Jurassic Park.”
Flint’s job is to find the FLDSMDFR and destroy it before the cuisine creatures can leave the island and invade the rest of the planet. He and his friends are in for the food fight of their lives.
“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” is a surreal story with familiar themes about friendship and believing in yourself, but instead of conveying those messages through a talking giraffe or a sardonic dinosaur, it features a bizarre array of talking groceries.
The movie’s imagination, inventiveness and humor are its selling points. The creatures are fantastic, the food puns are delicious and the story moves along faster than a sous chef chopping parsley. There’s sight gags galore and there’s even jokes for foodie parents.
Barb (Kristen Schaal), an orangutan with a genius IQ explains that Chester V “put a human brain in my monkey brain—like a turducken.”
And like a turducken “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” offers up layers of fun for every member of the family.
NFLer-turned-actor Terry Crews has a history with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The pair has most famously co-starred in two installments of The Expendables, but their initial onscreen encounter came years before.
“My first movie was called The 6th Day with Arnold. I’ll never forget it,” says Crews. “He was getting cloned and I was a goon. I had to jump up on these steps and say, ‘Adam Gibson come with us.’ The first time I ran up the steps, faced him and Arnold said, ‘What do you want?’ I couldn’t talk. I’m not even kidding you. Everything in my head said, ‘You don’t belong here. You’re an athlete. You have too many concussions; you don’t know what’s going on. They hired the wrong guy.’
“Then something went wrong with the camera, and I’m telling you I pulled myself to the side and said, ‘What the fuck is wrong with you? You wanna keep doing security?’ I literally yelled and cussed myself out. Then when they were ready I ran to him and said, ‘Adam Gibson! Come with us.’ When we were done Arnold said, ‘I like this guy, he’s emotional.’”
Crews’s career, which now spans sitcoms like Everybody Hates Chris, to reality shows like The Family Crews and Stars Earn Stripes, to movies like White Chicks and critical hits like HBO’s The Newsroom, has come full circle with The Expendables 2, where he shares a scene with Schwarzenegger.
“In the last movie we weren’t with him because he was the Governor and they could only film on Sunday,” he says. “It was him and Bruce [Willis] and they built that one scene and we weren’t even around. To have the chance to all be together, man, I was ecstatic.”
In person Crews’s action hero dimensions—he’s 6’3″ and carries 230 well-defined pounds—mask his more down to earth side. He’s gregarious; a talker who laughs easily and frequently uses words like ecstatic and thankful to describe his life and career. He underlines his sense of gratitude when speaking of his hardscrabble life in hometown Flint, Michigan.
“Flint is a city you have to escape,” he says. “I’m just being real. You have to escape that city because there are a lot of reasons your dreams get killed there. Talk about all these dynamics happening all at once the city, friends dying, crack, killings, shootings, it was not a fun place to be and I knew I had to go. Football was my way out but as I sit here now, there is no end to my thankfulness.”
He appreciates the gigs in The Expendables movies, (“People in Flint can’t believe it,” he says. “I can’t believe it!”), and working on them has reinforced his work ethic.
“Watching Sly and Arnold and Bruce and all these guys on the set I realized they all had the same attitude,” he says. “They work like crazy. The effort that Sly puts in, it’s as if he never did a movie before. You watch that and you realize that’s how they made it. That’s who they are.
“I look at it as something I can never take lightly. I always have to stay in a mode of appreciation and never ever entitlement because I was never entitled. It’s about the effort and what the work is.”