In Adam Sandler’s latest comedy classic, “Blended,” I was laughing so hard during the whacky set pieces in Africa that for a brief moment I actually forgot about all the tragedy that has plagued that continent. That has always been the brilliance of Sandler’s work, using comedy to help society take their minds off all the misery in the world: The hilarious performances by Sandler and Kevin James as New York firefighters forced to pretend they are homosexuals and get married in “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” helped an entire generation get past the horrific images of 9/11.
In “Blended,” directed by the extremely underrated Frank Coraci, Sandler plays Jim, the widowed father of three daughters, who goes on a catastrophic first date with Lauren, a divorced mother of two boys, played by the always amazing Drew Barrymore. After this nightmarish blind date, the last thing Jim and Lauren ever want is to see each other again, let alone take a family vacation to Africa together. SPOILER ALERT: Jim and Lauren end up both going to Africa on a family vacation. Although this easily could have seemed like a contrived set-up for a broad comedy, screenwriters Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera somehow find a way to make this plot feel incredibly believable.
When Sandler and Barrymore arrive in Africa with their kids is when the fun of “Blended” really starts. The chemistry onscreen between Sandler and Barrymore is undeniable and is the reason they’re often referred to as the Tracy and Hepburn of their generation. But the real surprise of this film is the emotional depth Sandler is able to reach with his widowed father character. Sandler’s ability to act with just eyes during scenes, conveying the pain of losing a loved one and the pressure of raising three daughters on his own, is truly breathtaking.
“Blended” is without doubt the front runner to win Best Musical or Comedy at next year’s Golden Globe Awards and Clint Eastwood’s upcoming “Jersey Boys” will have to be at the top of its game to even have a remote chance of competing.
The cinematography by Julio Macat perfectly captures the African landscape and at times is reminiscent of David Watkin’s Oscar-winning work in “Out of Africa.”