It could have been a bit smarter and a lot shorter, but "Blended," the third big-screen pairing for
Following a disastrous first date at, of all places, Hooters, single parents Jim Friedman (Sandler) and Lauren Reynolds (Barrymore) accidentally find themselves and their kids stuck sharing an exotic vacation — one expressly designed for all kinds of blended families — at a safari resort in South Africa. How they get there is a long, not credible story, one best not over analyzed.
Jim, a widower, has three daughters: 15-year-old tomboy Hilary, a.k.a. Larry (
It takes a while, of course, for the Friedmans and the Reynolds to warm up to one another as they navigate sleeping arrangements, dining protocol and some forced sightseeing. But soon, the kids are happily ogling lions, riding ostriches, improving at sports and getting glam makeovers. Meanwhile, buttoned-up Lauren goes parasailing and the scruffier Jim actually combs his hair to impress you-know-who.
Sure, the new symbiosis and Kumbaya vibe between and within these families is predictable. So is Jim and Lauren's tentative attraction. But there are enough amusing bits, lively visuals, cute music cues and nice emotional beats to carry the day.
Much mileage is also gained from the resort's omnipresent, nine-man harmony group called Thathoo (featuring members from the South African a cappella group Junior Mambazo).
Though the film, directed by
Barrymore is lovely and engaging here, while Sandler is well served by taking a more restrained and humane approach than usual; maturity becomes both actors.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language.
Running time: 1 hour, 57 minutes.